A throwback to the lost days when country radio was filled with novelty tunes and odes to the truckin’ life, Junior Brown and his expert backing band ripped through a set of blues, ballads and wry, uptempo faves from his Curb Records releases.Working his trademark twin-neck steel and standard guitar, the Austin, Texas, vet effectively puts across such tunes as “You’re Wanted by the Police (and My Wife Thinks You’re Dead),” “Highway Patrol,” “Venom Wearin’ Denim” and standout trucker hymn “Semi-Crazy” with a peppy approach. “Stupid Blues” from his new album, “Long Walk Back,” was another scorcher that harkens back to the speed-riffing numbers that fueled the country truck song boom of the ’60s and ’70s. Where Brown falters, however, is on his attempts at classic country ballads such as the Ray Price weeper, “I Want to Hear it From You.” Brown doesn’t have the distinctive pipes for this kind of material, and there lies half of the limitations of his act. Holding him back from crossover or major headlining status is his over-reliance on the propulsive fret-work and the absence of a broader palette of material. To drop the crooning and let sheer gusto to carry the day, Brown needs to fill out the backup assemblage of acoustic bass and single snare-drum and really put over a full-force musical assault. Still, he’s got the right spirit for fans of authentic roots country, which needs him to carry the torch.
The Mint; 150 capacity; $25 top
Presented inhouse. Reviewed Aug. 4, 1998.
Band: Junior Brown, Ranya Rae Bown, Steve Layne, Phillip Marshall.