Junior Brown,
Live at the Continental Club:
The Austin Experience

(Telarc, 2005)

Few artists working in country music today are more distinctive than Junior Brown. While not blessed with the commercial approval of the big Nashville stars, his deep voice, honkytonk rock style and understated sense of humor have earned him fans across the country.

But Junior Brown first made a name for himself working out of Austin, Texas, and Austin happily reclaims him with Live at the Continental Club: The Austin Experience.

Those who listen to country music only for humor value will find plenty here. Brown plays to country's known sense of the absurd with tracks like "You're Wanted By the Police (and My Wife Thinks You're Dead)." Unafraid of the country label, Brown twangs and drawls his way through the tale of a "Hillbilly Hula Girl" and the working-man ballad parody of the "Highway Patrol."

The Austin Experience has plenty to laugh at and a definite country kick, but that's not even half the story. Those listening just for laughs will be satisfied, but they'll also be missing some mighty fine guitar playing. Give a more attentive ear to "Rock & Roll Guitar Medley" or "I Hung It Up" and you'll be well rewarded by the spectacle of a master picker letting himself go wild and have fun. Flaco Jimenez lends accordion sparkle to "Juan Charasquado." With the storytelling sensibilities of old swing/country stars and the sense of humor of the best folk artists, Brown plays country music for people who think they hate country and those who know they love it.

Throughout the disc, Brown's showmanship is almost as impressive as his musical skills. Half the songs here beg for a sing-along, and Brown is not the man to discourage audience participation. With an audible grin and constant sense presence, Junior Brown makes The Austin Experience sound like a live performance, not just a live recording.

by Sarah Meador
17 March 2006

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