Sunday, 17 July 2005

Previously , the only prior exposure I had to Junior Brown came by way of a Gap jeans TV spot several years ago. No, really! Even though the commercial gave just the tiniest taste, I was drawn in by his rock n’ roll with a twang as well as his combo standard/steel guitar, “Big Red.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been big on country music, but this didn’t fit what I normally considered part of the genre. There was something about Junior Brown that I really liked. According to his Web site, he hears that more than anything else. Still, it hadn’t been enough to buy any of his CDs.

So with no real information to go on, I kind of bought the ticket on impulse. I figured that, if nothing else, it would get me out of the house for a few hours. And, who knows? I might even discover something good. On my way home, I bought two CDs, Greatest Hits and Down Home Chrome. The former because it could give me a glimpse into several albums worth of his work, the latter because I liked the title and the cover.

No amount of research, certainly not as limited as a single TV commercial two CDs could prepare me for what I was about to see—one really good show. I got there about 5 minutes before the show and was a bit worried, there weren’t very many people there at all. It was just going to be Brown the whole night, no opening act. And surprisingly, the stage was even more sparsely populated than the audience; just a simple drum kit, plus a few microphones and amplifiers.

Junior took the stage with a drummer and bass player and just laid into it. Seeing “Big Red,” his custom-built guit-steel, in pictures or on TV was one thing. To see it in person, or more importantly to see Junior Brown play it, was another thing entirely. His undeniable talent on the guitar, coupled with his baritone voice, and capable songwriting made for a great time.

The only song I recognized with any certainty was “Highway Patrol.” Based on audience reaction, he did several other hits through the evening, but there’s no way I could list them.

I never figured out why Brown had a cargo blanket over his stage amplifiers. Every so often he’d reach underneath and tweak a knob or two. If I had the chance, I’d ask him about it, but it didn’t really matter. The music was more than enough to keep my attention. I found myself really getting into it, constantly surprised by Brown’s guitar work and musicianship.

After the show I stuck around hoping to get an autograph. Eventually, one of the bouncers said Junior was out in the tour bus and probably wouldn’t come back into the club. Reluctantly, I went outside and found a few other fans waiting. Junior never did come back out. In that heat I don’t blame him. Luckily, one of his roadies was nice enough to take stuff onto the bus and get it autographed for us.

The final tally was 3 musicians, 90 minutes of kick-ass music, 290 pictures, and 1 autograph.

Happily, from humble beginnings came one hell of a night. I guess it’s best described by using a quote from Brown’s Web site: his music “combines the soul of country, but the spirit of rock-and-roll.” No doubt.

You can bet I’ll go see him again if I’m get the chance.

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