After years of butting its head against staunch neo-country trends, "This is BR5-49" may be the record that finally propels Nashville's best band into the national spotlight. Produced by Mike Poole and Paul Worley (who's tweaked the knobs for a whole laundry list of country legends including Pam Tillis, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Dixie Chicks), the effort perfectly blends BR5-49's predilection for old-school pickin' and grinnin' with the best aspects of new country, never once resorting to corn-pone gimmickry or power ballads. "Too Lazy to Work, Too Nervous to Steal" kicks the album off in high style, with singer/guitarist Chuck Mead's wry sense of humor leading the song's rip-snorting (but never boot-scootin') boogie. Mead's keening vocals mix perfectly with BR5's other singer/guitarist, Gary Bennett, and
"Sweet Emotion/Songs of Aerosmith"
If there's one thing I can't stand more than any post-"Draw the Line" album by Aerosmith, it's the never-interesting but ever-ubiquitous "tribute" album, where random artists convene to "reinterpret" (aka rape, plunder and pillage) the catalog of a well-known act. Thus, it's difficult not to invoke Murphy's Law when listening to "Sweet Emotion," which brings these two nausea-encouraging concepts together for an hour-long journey into the dark soul of musical hell. If you thought songs like "Cryin'" and "Pink" were contemptible the first time around, you ain't heard nothin' yet. If you -- like many -- are a fan of Aerosmith's early efforts, just wait 'til you get a load of Lou Gramm's run through a karaoke-ready version of "Back in the Saddle." Unfortunately, the Foreigner frontman's blustery blues posturing is one of the disc's better moments, sounding practically genius next to unintentionally hilarious numbers like Crystal Taliefero's knee-slapping take on "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)." Though a few genuine blues masters (Pinetop Perkins, Sugar Blue, Otis Clay) show up on this cash-cow collection of musical tripe, it's obvious they're just on board for a quick payday. Making matters worse is the tepid backing band, featured on virtually every number, which quickly makes this already commonplace collection even more indistinguishable. Perhaps that's why David "Honeyboy" Edwards' unaccompanied acoustic rendition of "Train Kept a Rollin'" stands out among the wolf pack of rehashed blues dreck. Of course, opting for a song that wasn't penned by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry probably didn't hurt either. In the end, the lone redeeming quality of this snooze-worthy assortment is that it provides one more nail to drive into Aerosmith's musical coffin. Let's pray for a painless -- and swift -- death.
-- reviewed by Geoff Harkness