'Guit' with it at Junior Brown concert
If you aren't sure what "revisionist Western swing" sounds like, don't be concerned. All you really have to know is that Junior Brown's music is as original as the instrument he plays.
After decades of awkwardly switching from his standard guitar to his steel guitar during performances, Brown decided there must be a better way to do it.
It came to him in a dream: Combine the two. His "Guit-Steel" is a double-necked instrument that allows him to switch from standard to steel at mid-song, without pause.
As a result of that, his music became more Junior Brown and less imitation of other singers, fueled by original ideas and licks. Rolling Stone magazine, which labeled it "revisionist Western swing," called it "timely and infectious."
Brown's music has been evolving for decades. Born in the 1950s in Arizona, he grew up in rural Indiana where, he said, "Country music ... (grew) up out of the ground like the crops — it was everywhere."
He discovered a guitar in his grandparents' attic and began playing both country and the music the older, college-age kids were listening to. Among other events, he sang and played guitar for 5,000 Boy Scouts at a Jamboree, and had an opportunity to sit in with rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley.
But that was a time when country wasn't cool, so he did not broadcast his interest in it.
"It was like a secret friend I carried around, being careful not to tell anyone (especially girls) about my love for it because I thought they would laugh at me," he said in a biography.
In the late 1960s he decided to explore that musical passion with pride. That led to "more nights in honky-tonks during the 1970s and 1980s than most musicians will see in a lifetime," he wrote.
Brown learned professionalism and stage demeanor during those years, and spent time with songwriters who taught him how to support himself by songwriting and publishing.
He also learned that he could perform and enjoy other styles of American music, too: rock 'n' roll, Hawaiian, bluegrass and Western swing.
A Junior Brown concert today is filled with subtle wit, humor, serious notes and a range of styles. Since the early 1990s he and his band, including wife Tanya Rae, have been located in Austin, Texas. Part of an active music scene, they have released several albums, won awards and appeared on a variety of television shows, including the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.
His Sunday, Oct. 22, concert at the Sheldon will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 to $55, students $15. Call the Sheldon at 651-388-87800 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.