Unique style of Junior Brown at Tarkington

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Brown primarily plays the “guit-steel,” an instrument he invented in 1985 with guitar-maker Michael Steven. (Submitted photo)

As the lights slowly illuminated the stage, a man, who by the noises he was creatingsounded as if he was from South Texas, emerged from the dark.Surprisingly,this Hoosier, Junior Brown, is from a town near Bloomington called Kirksville,and he lit up the stage. He was introduced by his bass player James Quinn, and joined on stage by his drummer who played only a snare and cymbal. They opened with “Broke Down South of Dallas,” where Brown dazzled all with his unique playing.He started with the Dixie-picking style on the upper six-string guitar,then down to the slide guitar attached below.

He calls his instrument the “guit-steel,” which was an invention he came up with around 1985 when he collaborated with guitar-maker Michael Steven. Not only is he one of the fastest pickers I have ever heard, but his lyrics are hilarious. A great example was “Party Lights,” a story of good times cut short by the police cars’ party lights at night.

Brown is known as “Jimi Hendrix playing old-traditional country,”but there is so much more to it. I was awed by his “guit-steel” and his unique baritone voice. All these combined aspects were a great tribute to the styles of surf, jazz, rockabilly and even Hawaiian slide. Brown is one-of-a-kind and should not be dismissed by those who have an aversion to country music. Not only is he playing traditional country, but he also plays songs like “Pipeline” and “Lullaby of the Leaves,” both with lightning-fast surfer songs in that “Pulp Fiction” style.

His unique styles and appearance could only be described as flashy with rhinestones and a signature white hat, while his stories open theimagination to the musical changes he has experienced during his lifetime.

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