JUNIOR BROWN/ALLISON MOORER
Austin's Junior Brown tries to flaunt his range with his latest effort, Long Walk Back (Curb), but in practically every case the droll singer-guitarist just proves how limited that is. On previous albums he's delivered a winning amped-up traditionalism, mixing the half-spoken vocals of Ernest Tubb with Jimi Hendrix-style ax slinging; after three go-rounds he must have sensed that the formula was getting slightly shticky. But his solution is far worse than his problem. On the tearjerker "Read 'Em and Weep" he tries to croon, but his wooden voice makes a mockery of the tune. On an oldie called "Lookin' for Love" he makes some strange gender-bending choices, singing, "[I] don't have to wear jewelry and fabulous furs," which might be funny if his starched-collar sobriety didn't make it creepy instead. He hired former Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell to play on the lengthy "Stupid Blues," which painfully proves how important singing is to the blues, as well as on "Keepin' Up With You," a Brown original laced with Hendrix references on which the guitarist makes unwise attempts at gettin' funky. But when Brown sticks to what he does best, as on the searing instrumental "Peelin' Taters" or the witty "The Better Half," his music is hard to beat, even if you know his every move in advance. Of course, knowing every move in advance is what makes the Nashville machine omnipotent--and impotent--so when someone comes along on a major label and deviates from the program just a little, it looks like a bigger deal than it is. That's the case with Allison Moorer: On her recent debut, Alabama Song (MCA), Shelby Lynne's little sister escaped the usual high-gloss treatment, keeping the focus on her lovely, throaty voice. Her original songs, mostly about failed romance, are not particularly insightful, either musically or lyrically, but she carries them off with a melancholy that hits much closer to home than anything Faith Hill can muster. For better or for worse this double bill represents the state of the art of subversion from within. Wednesday and Thursday, December 2 and 3, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Junior Brown photo by James Crump--RSP/ Allison Moorer photo by Mark Tucker.