Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Amazing Junior Brown
at the Ottawa Blues Fest

After The M's had finished their set on the Main Stage we pick up our gear and move to the more cozy confines of one of three small stages that make up this Blues Fest.

Junior Brown comes to us out of Austin Texas and brings with him a little bit of authentic roots rock-a-billy, a drop of Tex-Mex, the odd nonsense song and straight ahead country. All this is propelled by his unique string stylings on his instrument of choice, a 'guit-steel'. This is a two-necked contraption with a red Fender Telecaster mounted on top of a steel-guitar. He deftly picks his slide from it's holder when he switches from one to the other.
On top of this he gets some terrific effects, Hendrix-like, out of his fuzz box. He's deft at the surf sound and you can hear a little of Duane Eddy and Link Wray in some of his more adventurous solos. A full orchestra coming from a single lead. He's joined by a one-drum drummer and a very adept bass player. Most songs evolve into some type of virtuoso display on the stringed instrument sitting atop a stand, center stage.
Oh, and there's an intelligent, if sometimes hokey, wit that I'm sure leaves most red-necks scratching their pate. He's country that non-country fans can like and modern country fans probably don't. Of course he comes to us from Austin via that hot-bed of country music, Kirksville, Indiana.

We've found some shade, some food and some drink and we're ready to be entertained. Fortunately, we came to the right place. Onstage is a man not too proud to be shamelessly joyous.

With little ado, not counting the local radio personality who feels compelled to come onstage before each act, the strange string contraption is in place and the show is moving forward sure as that Orange Blossom Special. Junior calls the audience out and his baritone voice if fast into a twang-fest called Broke Down South of Dallas. He fiddles some with his amp to get his sound just like he hears it in his head as he tells the story of bein' henpecked and lovin' it. "i got a wife with a fryin' pan/ and when she talks, i listen."

Party Lights tells a tale of a man avoiding the law while running with his demons. a little piece of fluff filled out admirably with some nimble picking.

Lifeguard Larry is the plaintive wail of every 90 lb weakling who has to watch the bronze adonis get the girl.

Apparently Junior did a cheezy video for My Wife Thinks You're Dead that has been hard to live down. I've never seen it but the song is funny and it's all there in the title. Sometimes you just gotta wear the albatross proudly. "I can see the kinda trouble you can get me in / you oughta pay attention to every word i said / you're wanted by the police and my wife thinks you're dead." It turns into a welcome excuse for a bluesy guitar solo. Reason enough to smile.

I Hung It Up is just a riff about the price you pay for love...and an excuse to let Junior go wild. a jumping jive exploration of strings and pedals. 8 minutes of impressive guitar and the closest this voice can come to singing scat.

The pace slows down with a gentle, swinging, Long Walk Back to San Antone. Junior's crooning and his voice invites you right up onto the porch to listen to his tale of travels... his wife's travels, that is, as she's out the door. Excellent bass line in support of yet another stellar guitar lead. The drummer is keeping time.

I Want To Live and Love Always gets us back on that runaway freight train, play-that-fast-thing one-more-time, swing. A song about the joys of having something to live for, "lovin' under the stars above." The answer may be blowin' in the wind but it's not that hard to discern.

Next is the highlight of the weekend. A Spanish song, the music sounds like a caliope, the mood like a carnival, the lyrics... I got no idea but it sounds wonderful. A cover of Jimenez Jose Alfredo's El Corrido Del Cabano Blanco, which translates rougly to The Run of the Lone White Horse. A convoluted tale of travel in the 3rd world before the days of the automobile. Or a classic folk tale of some sort. It doesn't matter, it sounds freakin' great.

Junior unleashes an extended instrumental medley backed by 'jungle' drums and showcasing that 'orange blossom special' twang.

A gool-ole-boys-only song in Highway Patrol, an homage to the man who wears "a star on (his) car and another one on (his)chest." He follows with another more traditional country tune, Ole Fashioned Love...coulda swore Loretta Lynn was gonna pop onstage to sing this one for us.

No country catalogue would be complete without a paeon to rugged individualism and Junior finds his in Freeborn Man. He almost yodels in this one. No matter, any reason for more extended guitar brilliance is fine.

Still with the traditional style country The Better Half pays some dues to the wife before the show closes with a 13 minute surf-medley instrumental that included Secret Agent Man in there somewhere.

Junior Brown is opening for Bob Dylan at a small town, minor league ballpark near you this summer.

Don't Dare Miss It!

Torrent might be running at DIMEADOZEN


Anonymous said...

Very cool. Do you have any other recordings from the bluesfest?

dylanomaniac said...

i have roseanne cash and a wilco set with some, well, not technical difficulties, but we shouldn't let tapers drink so much.
i'll put the cash up this week and pass the wilco along to someone else to torrent.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taping, I was at the Cash and Wilco show. You rock.

the3penguins said...

Great stuff Marcel, thanks! Can't wait to see him in a couple weeks.