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Junior seems semi-distracted

Iron Horse, Northampton, Mass., Oct. 7, 1996, early show

By Jon Johnson

NORTHAMPTON, MA - After capturing a Country Music Association award last week for best video, it would be nice to report that Junior Brown delivered a scorching set that went from one high point to the next.

It would be nice, but it wouldn't really be the case.

Brown, touring on behalf of his latest release, "Semi Crazy," was beset almost from the start of his 85-minute set (the first of two sets that evening) by apparent problems with his amplifiers.

While his band sounded as good as ever, and the sound problems weren't as apparent to those in the audience, Brown was visibly distracted at times. When his equipment was functioning properly, Brown was allowed to concentrate on his performance and invoked images of some mutant cross between Ernest Tubb, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter - good Texas boys to a man!

When Brown was distracted, it almost seemed like he was running on automatic; most visibly during parts of "Surf Medley."

Having said that, a Junior Brown performance on an off-night is still filled with more astonishing guitar work than you'll get from most artists on their best evenings, and the strongest moments - "I Hung It Up" and "Highway Patrol," in particular - were up to his usual standards.

Brown would be a world-class lead guitarist or steel guitarist in nearly band; he is endowed with the talent to shine on both instruments and practically the same time.

Brown is blessed with a tight, sturdy band (wife Tanya Rae Brown on rhythm guitar, Steve Layne on stand-up bass and Tommy Lewis on drums) that travels light and can follow his whims almost telepathically.

This was a slightly off-night forBrown, all told, but by no means typical. Here's hoping that his recent C.M.A. win will attract more attention to this fantastic performer.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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