Ali'l ol' five-song EP is better than nothing when it comes from the best-kept secret in country music. Brown's voice, a creaky old Cadillac of a baritone, heavy as chrome but much warmer, brings to mind his hero Ernest Tubb. And with his barn-square melodies and swinging tempos (kept by a single snare drum and an acoustic bass), this 10-galloned Texan almost does seem a throwback. But nobody else writes lyrics quite like these: addressing a resurfaced ex in "My Wife Thinks You're Dead," he sings, "We'll have to say hello maybe some other time instead/ 'Cause you're wanted by the po-lice/ And my wife thinks you're dead."
Nobody else plays guitar quite like Brown either. His style is so unusual he had to design his own instrument to contain it: two necks on one solid body, a straight six-string electric and a lap-steel. The thing is too heavy to wear on a strap, so he lays it on a music stand and bellies up to it, whipping back and forth between the necks, loosing torrents of sound, from backwoods scampering to rockabilly grease to Hendrix psychedelia—none of it ironically. He means every note he plays, and he plays a lot of them.
Junior High is as good as Brown's previous two full-length albums. Maybe his recent Grammy nomination for Best Country Album will bring overdue attention to the rollicking charm and uncynical wit of this truly radical conservative. (MCG/Curb)