When you open the mail and find a record like Jon Byrd's Byrd’s Auto Parts, for a moment things seem right with the music world. Byrd lives in Nashville, but his music and ethic is so outside Music Row’s corporate-decision-making, public-opinion-molding, radio-program-director-strategerizing that he might as well reside in West Texas or Appalachia.
Byrd treats country music like a religion; the man would no more cut a song like Keith Urban’s “You Look Good in My Shirt” than expose himself in a Sunday School class. What he will do is cut a honky tonk version of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” that makes us realize all the ache Lennon and McCartney could hide inside a poppy classic. It sure doesn’t do Byrd’s honky-tonk cred any harm when he follows "Don't Let Me Down" with a steel-guitar-loaded Doug Sahm obscurity, the too-real “Be Real,” or that he can make Neil Young’s “(When You’re On) the Losing End” sound like it was written in Ernest Tubb’s tour bus.
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When Byrd unleashes his Tele-whanger on Red Sovine’s trucker classic “Freightliner Fever,” it’s obvious the guy is a world-class picker of the Bakersfield school. And they just don’t write lines like “Son, what you carryin’ in that cigarette pack, I said I got my second driver, he’s gonna drive all the way back, it’s a big black pill so long and round, the drivers call it a West Coast turnaround, it’s for the fever, the Freightliner fever” anymore. Try to imagine flag-wrapped doofus Toby Keith singing that one.
Byrd’s own material, like “Reputation“ and “Jackknife,” sounds like classic country of the golden era. You can’t buy advice like “keep a jackknife in your pocket, just in case you need a friend.” His barroom weeper “One Final Round,” meanwhile, puts him squarely in the class with writers like Mike Stinson and Arty Hill - in other words, pretty much as good as it gets.
If you like country music, get tuned up at Byrd’s Auto Parts. Take a test drive at Byrd's MySpace page. - William Michael Smith