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Marty Brown

American Highway – 2019 (Plowboy)

Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

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Buckle up for a rollicking, joyful, adventuresome ride as Marty Brown drives flat-out down the straightaways and hugs tight the curves of the "American Highway." It's great to have Brown, who's written hits for Trace Adkins ("It Ain't Me If It Ain't You") and Tracy Byrd ("I'm From the Country"), back behind the wheel after a nearly 23-year break. With a sure hand, he steers us through boogie-woogie, blues and flat out country.

The Springsteen-like title track celebrates the rich diversity of lives not often seen from the interstate, an America where people go about their daily lives eating at the Dairy Queen or the chicken stand or saying hello to their neighbors, and he sees "factories and steel mills working for that good ole USA." It's a paean to "good-hearted American people"; Brown reminds us that he has a "windshield view of it all" on this American highway. On the propulsive rocker (with echoes of Foghat) "I'm on a Roll (Better Than It's Ever Been)" the singer revels in his good fortune - "I got a roof that don't leak/And a well that don't run dry" - and invites us into the celebration with him. The slow-burning love song, "Umbrella Lovers," whose sonic structure recalls Alabama's "Dancing on the Boulevard," captures the subtle reveries induced by a kiss. The party anthem "Shaking All Over the World" urges us to get up and dance no matter where we are, while the harmonica-driven "Kentucky Blues" takes up the same subjects - using some of the same phrases here and there, "the rain keeps falling down on me/ looks like nothing's gonna come my way" - as Elvis' "Kentucky Rain."

"American Highway" is just plain fun. Brown writes tunes that get us up dancing, and he knows how to tell a story and turn a phrase so that his words grab us and urge us to sing along to these songs that celebrate the beauty of life and love.