Junior Brown, Force of Nature, Storms the Freight
One had the sense of seeing a living legend when Junior Brown brought his ‘guit-steel’ driven rockabilly, honky-tonking, surf-rock bonanza of a show to the Freight & Salvage stage on Tuesday. A consumate and one-of-kind entertainer, the multi-Grammy/Country Music/International Bluegrass-award winning Brown did not rest on any one of his laurels. Instead he plugged in his performance in every way, relentlessly casting a vast array of sounds from a multi-genred palette into every inch of air inside the Freight. “We could go all night, Berkeley!” he said during the encore, and we believed him.
Accompanied by a tight three-piece band which included his wife, Tanya Rae Brown, on acoustic guitar, Brown and company offered up a taut set that showcased his expert, high-energy fret and slidework. The man, simply put, loves music, loves playing, and is a true master of the guitar, in this case his custom, double-necked “guit-steel.” Offering up songs from the breadth of his career — from “Broke Down In Dallas” to the recent “Hang Up And Drive” from 2012’s Volume 10 — Brown is at once old-school country and new traditionalist, of-a-time and timeless. Fans of all ages were either dancing in their seats or sitting agog, slightly spellbound at the sights and sounds sparking from the stage. This, music lovers, was truly alive music.
In the honorable, but potentially onerous, position of opening for Brown, Brother Sun nonetheless brought the Freight crowd to its feet on their own terms. An altogether different, but no less skillful, musical animal than Brown, the trio offered up a more folk-oriented take on neo-traditional American music. Comprised of songwriters Greg Greenway, Pat Wictor, and Joe Jencks, who hail from Boston, New York,and Chicago, the trio’s ace is their three-part harmony, which they employed to rousing effect in a diverse set of lyric-driven songs drawing on the blues, pop and a cappella singing.