Junior Brown

To my consternation, in high school my daughter was caught up in the end of the whole disco/techno dance-club thing and chin-deep in what was to me a bewildering, developing new music: rap. Imagine my surprise when she came home from college that first time and, scrounging through my CD cabinet, pulled out Junior Brown's 12 Shades of Brown. She didn't just ask if she could play it, but asked if she could have it. I had assumed she was completely lost musically, but maybe the apple wasn't going to fall so far from the tree after all. Any child that loved "Broke Down South of Dallas" and "My Baby Don't Dance to Nothing But Ernest Tubb" just might be a keeper, even if she did know more than anyone ought to about something called "Funky Cold Medina."

Brown hasn't put out an album since 2005, a live recording at Austin's Continental Club. And while his publicity proclaims him a worldwide artist these days, his schedule is not exactly something that airlines can rely on to keep them out of bankruptcy. Be that as it may, the former Alvin Crow sideman is, as always, a monster picker and journeyman songwriter who knows how to deliver a jaw-dropping show. When he attacks that wacky "guit-steel" of his, the guitar gods come snap to attention. Until Brown decides to record again — if he ever does — these two shows may be all of the oddest duck in country music we are likely to get for a while.

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William Michael Smith