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Junior Brown w/ Sturgill Simpson - 4/21
at City Winery New York City
“Junior told me once that he was very impressed by Jimi Hendrix, by the way he was very wild, and yet he was very controlled. He knew where everything was going in a solo, and he (Junior), I think tries for the same effect, and I think he hits it virtually every time.” --Mitch Mitchell, drummer, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Though these two quotes attempt to explain his uniqueness and wide range musical capability, though not vague, the quotes are so dissimilar as to provoke a curious sense of mystery for a reader uninitiated with the phenomenon known as Junior Brown. Of course, to anyone who has seen Junior sing and play live, or heard any of his ten albums, will no doubt understand the connectedness in what the two quotes mean, and more often than not will have some quotable Junior observations to add of their own.
What it all boils down to is this: with his unique voice, more unique songwriting craft, and even more unique double necked “Guit-Steel”, there has absolutely never been anyone like Junior Brown.
Born l952 in Cottonwood, AZ., Junior showed musical talent at an early age playing little melodies on the family piano before he could talk. Curiosity led him to an old guitar in his grandparents’ attic, thus setting the stage for a lifelong interest in the steel strings. After a series of high school dance bands, he hit the Country dance club circuit full time while still in his teens. This continued for decades all over the United States and many excursions abroad.
After settling in Austin, Texas, with his wife and rhythm guitarist-singer, Tanya Rae, he began his weekly tenure at the legendary Continental Club where the band successfully honed their craft leading ultimately to a major label signing (Curb), a Country Music Association Award (CMA), three Grammy nods, a Bluegrass Music Association Award (IBMA) with legend, Ralph Stanley, duets on record and video appearances with everyone from Hank Thompson and George Jones to The Beach Boys and Stone Temple Pilots.
Then came movies (Me Myself and Irene, Trespass, Still Breathing, The Dukes of Hazard, Blue Collar Comedy Tour l and II), TV shows (X Files, Chris Issac, Austin City Limits), multiple appearances on Letterman, Conan, Saturday Night Live, and even a cameo appearance in SpongeBob Squarepants. And there were the national ad campaigns, like The Gap, Lee Jeans and Lipton Tea.
Lately Junior has been concentrating just as hard as always on his songwriting skills with his more recent material, which still references dry wit, serious sentiment and instrumental prowess.Some of these new songs show a previously uncharted direction into modern technical jargon. Just one listen to selections like “Hang Up and Drive” or “Apathy Waltz” and you will have no doubt that there is more here than just simple Retro-Billy. These songs are about today and Junior is still performing them “Junior style”.
So what more does one say in an attempt to describe a truly one-of-a-kind music legend, who is doing what he does better now than ever before? How does someone describe the indescribable to one who hasn’t seen or heard?
What comes to mind for me is the title to one of Junior’s early albums which refers cleverly to his creation, the “Guit—Steel”, the instrument consolidating standard and steel guitars allowing him to switch mid-song between the two while singing. The title of the album simply states the best advice that can be offered: GUIT WITH IT!
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Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Robert Earl Keen, Merle Haggard, George Jones
ABOUT STURGILL SIMPSON
Nashville sounds like Nashville again on High Top Mountain, the debut release from singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson.
From furious honky-tonk and pre-outlaw country-rocking to spellbinding bluegrass pickin’ and emotional balladry, the album serves as a one-stop guide to everything that made real country music such a force to be reckoned with.
Pure and uncompromising, devoid of gloss and fakery, High Top Mountain’s dozen instant classics evoke the sound of timeless country in its many guises and brings back the lyrical forthrightness and depth that permeated the music Simpson absorbed during his Kentucky childhood.