Guit-steel slinger Junior Brown steers into country ballads on Deep in the Heart of Me | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Guit-steel slinger Junior Brown steers into country ballads on Deep in the Heart of Me

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Country artist Junior Brown has a droll baritone reminiscent of Johnny Cash that works well in funny songs, including “Highway Patrol” and “My Wife Thinks You're Dead.” But as great as his voice is, what keeps drawing the fans in is his thundering ax work. His live sets are designed to show off his proficiency on his custom-made guit-steel—a visually compelling double-necked instrument that joins a guitar and a lap steel. Though he’s often seen as a savior of traditional C&W, he’s likely to slip a few cross-genre crowd-pleasers into his show; you can expect homages to Jimi Hendrix and various surf-guitar legends, and he performs them deftly enough to amaze even his most faithful fans. Brown’s not all about flashy playing, though, and on his first album in more than a decade, last year’s Deep in the Heart of Me, he showcases his often overlooked talent for ballads. He hasn’t exactly become a love-song crooner (unless you can find romance in a song called “The Cockeyed Cop From Camp Kankakee”), but the tunes move at a more relaxed, leisurely pace than his jittery rockabilly-influenced material. And while Deep in the Heart of Me deviates slightly from Brown’s usual program, when he gets onstage he’ll doubtless still find new ways to burn the joint down.   v

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