February 2006

Junior Brown - Live at the Continental Club: The Austin Experience
Telarc CD-83637
Released: 2005

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***

Guitarist Junior Brown plays American music -- country, western swing, and rock'n'roll, with some blues thrown in -- but he’d rather synthesize his influences than reinvent them. It’s an enjoyable stew, complemented by his rich baritone, which contains echoes of Ernest Tubb and Buck Owens.

Brown’s steady Sunday-night appearances at the Continental Club in Austin led to his first record contract, and he returns to the comforts of home for this live recording. The audience sings along heartily on "My Wife Thinks You’re Dead" as well as other favorites, and Brown returns their affection with a spirited performance. Occasionally, things sprawl a bit. Although it is impressive that Brown can evoke Jimmy Page and Wes Montgomery in the same solo, his playing on this date sometimes lacks the focus that a studio recording’s time constraints demand. In addition, his vocals, as strong a part of his discs as his guitar playing, seem rushed and haphazard at times.

On the plus side, Brown plays with energy and humor and sets off a lot of sparks during Live at the Continental Club’s 52 minutes. Curiously, Telarc’s recording standards seemed to have slipped a little. The drums are somewhat distant, the rhythm guitar is mixed too low, and there’s very little live atmosphere (maybe Telarc’s saving that for a 5.1 SACD mix). Still, Brown’s fans will find much to enjoy, and anyone hearing him on this disc for the first time should be suitably impressed.