Album Review: 12 Shades of Brown by Junior Brown – 3 out of 5

Junior Brown 12 Shades of Brown
Title: 12 Shades of Brown
Artist: Junior Brown
Rating: 3 out of 5
Purchase from: Amazon, iTunes

There is very little modern country that doesn’t cause my ears to bleed. I think it mostly comes from a notion that in order to be good, country music must be something more than top-40 pop tunes sung through the nose. An artist that gets this, in a wonderful way, is consummate honky-tonk master Junior Brown. With his signature “guit-steel” (a double neck guitar that combines an electric guitar and lap steel guitar) he combines a classic country sound with both a love of Hawaiian and Surf Rock sounds to make music that is both entirely unique and entirely country

12 Shades of Brown, like many début albums, is a nice introduction to a great artist, but is far from a perfect album. However, this album has some great country gems such as “My Baby Don’t Dance to Nothing but Ernest Tubb” and “Too Many Nights in a Roadhouse”. It also features his first explorations of the island sounds with “Hillbilly Hula Gal” and “Coconut Island”. Unfortunately, this album displays some songs that dive way too far into sappy sentimentality such as “They Don’t Choose to Live that Way” though I can stand to listen to “Don’t Sell the Farm” occasionally. However, Hank Williams tributes such as “What’s Left Won’t Go Right” and just perfect country songs like “Broke Down South of Dallas” more than make up for these slight stumbles.

12 Shades of Brown is an extremely listenable and enjoyable album and a wonderful precursor to Brown’s later, more polished works.

Album Review: 11:11 by Regina Spektor – 3 out of 5

Title: 11:11
Artist: Regina Spektor
Rating: 3 out of 5
Purchase from:Amazon, iTunes

Regina Spektor is a recent pop obsession of mine. I first discovered her from some radio play from her 2004 Soviet Kitsch album. Since then I have amassed all of her albums and remain a dedicated fan. 11:11 is not Regina Spektor’s strongest album, but rarely are first albums the best albums. However, it already demonstrates a strong, quirky songwriting talent and shows off her incredible vocal range.

This is certainly her jazziest album with “Rejazz”, “Marry Ann” and “Wasteland” as good example of her jazzy roots. However, the album also features early examples of her bouncy song poems that she will become famous for. Stand out tracks in this style include “Buildings” and “Sunshine”.

Her most adventurous track is the 7:43 long, sprawling “Pavlov’s Daughter” which is, at different points, a spoken work beat poem, a driving, angry piano piece and a sad, soft mournful ballad.

I still consider Soviet Kitsch as her best album (with What We Saw From The Cheap Seats climbing in my esteem), however, 11:11 is a good album for those who need some fun anti-folk to make their day a bit brighter.