Picks and Pans Review: Big Backyard Beat Show

updated 08/10/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/10/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

BR5-49 (Arista)

Album of the week

Often decked out in overalls, the five members of this country-rockabilly band look like they stepped off the set of Hee Haw, the show that gave them their odd moniker—the phone number in a sketch about a dimwitted used-car salesman. But despite their campy look, the band's music, honed by years of performing in Robert's Western World, a Nashville store that doubles as a nightclub, is a refreshing blast from country music's past. Besides the sort of vigorous country and early rock covers ("There Goes My Love," "Wild One") that spark their club dates, Backyard includes nine originals that would sound at home in an old WSM Opry radio broadcast. The rhythm section is anchored by drummer "Hawk" Shaw Wilson and bassist "Smilin' " Jay McDowell, and guitarist-songwriters Gary Bennett and Chuck Mead provide vocals. The album also features the stellar play of Don Herron (fiddle, cello, mandolin, Dobro), who helps make BR5-49 more than a country throwback by imbuing their sound with a sense of timelessness.

Bottom Line: Lively bar band bellies up to the big time

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