October 2004

Junior Brown - Down Home Chrome
Telarc 64612
Released: 2004

by Wes Marshall

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Around 1992, two big things happened in Junior Brown’s life -- he signed to Curb Records and he took up semi-permanent residence as the Sunday night headliner at the Continental Club in Austin. The club gigs were legendary --- Junior and his crew would blow the back off the SRO club and in a town where you can spit and hit three great lead guitar players (for you closet GP readers, I mean folks like Eric Johnson, Jimmie Vaughan, Redd Volkaert, David Grissom, Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton, to name just a few), no one wanted to get on stage with Junior. He was too good.

Junior has been known to cover Ernest Tubb, Jimi Hendrix, and the Ventures (I even saw him play on the same bill with Tony Bennett at South by Southwest!), which made him a great live act, but tough to promote on CD. Curb Records eventually decided to concentrate on their country hunks like Tim McGraw and lost interest in Brown. Enter Telarc.

As usual on Junior’s albums, Down Home Chrome offers a combo platter of styles, ranging from rockabilly to hard rock, blues to country swing. Throughout, Junior and his band swing like reckless hot-rod drivers. The song most folks will be talking about is "Foxy Lady," which is a great take on the Hendrix classic, but if you really want to hear what Junior can do on the guitar, head straight for the last song, "Monkey Wrench Blues," a ten-minute guitar explosion.

Kudos to all involved for taking the dangerous step of recording the album (mostly) live. It offers a cohesive sound and a sense of musicians interacting that you don’t get on a lot of records. Telarc’s sound is typically plumy and round, very analog-like. The rear channels are used mostly for ambience and Junior’s vocals are panned to the left and right rather than to the center, which helps give them that rockabilly twang.