Archive for Thursday, July 23, 1998

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July 23, 1998
“Big Backyard Beat Show” is the album for naysayers who branded BR5-49 a novelty act cashing in on the retro country resurgence. It’s a record for those who figured the group’s full-length debut, 1996’s “BR5-49,” and its live EP predecessor, “Live at Robert’s,” were the work of a lucky cover band with no identity. Well, take this: “Big Backyard Beat Show” is the ensemble’s defining effort, the adult record if you will. While “BR5-49” and “Live at Robert’s” displayed solid musicianship and an honest reverence for the past, both CDs were caught up in the quirky, aren’t-they-cool media hype stemming from the band’s big break. After all, how many country acts get discovered while singing Hank Williams tunes at a downtown Nashville bar-clothing store called Robert’s Western World? Now it’s time for the music to speak. And it does. Loudly. Comprising largely originals and a few well-chosen covers (particularly Buck Owens’ shuffling “There Goes My Love” and Billy Joe Shaver’s kicking “Georgia on a Fast Train”), “Backyard” is a muscular, well-executed collection of country, rockabilly and even a Tex-Mex ballad, “Goodbye, Maria,” thrown in for good measure. Among the highlights: The boogie-woogie swagger of “Out of Habit”; the contemplative mood of the waltzlike “Storybook Endings (If You Stop Believin’)”; and the chugging groove of “18 Wheels and a Crowbar.” Most important, “Backyard” establishes BR5-49 as a timeless entity. Sure, the band’s base is country circa 1960s and it’s made its biggest splash on Americana radio. But with across-the-board praise from folks such as Bob Dylan, the Black Crowes and George Jones, its appeal is unlimited. This is good-time music, pure and simple.