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Journeyman's Wager

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Album Review

Mead was the lead guitarist and vocalist for the honky tonk heroes BR5-49. The band built a loyal following in the early '90s despite being "too country for rock and too rock for country", and maybe even "too country for country" at the time. Despite the cynicism of the music biz, the band got signed to Arista, made several albums, almost sold out, moved to Columbia, got dropped again, and found salvation on Dualtone, who allowed the band to be who they always were. With BR5-49 currently on extended hiatus, Mead has stepped out with his own band and dropped 11 smoking roots rock nuggets that will please old fans and win new friends in the Americana/roots rock camp. Point in case, "In a Song," a gospel-esque tribute to what Harlan Howard called "three chords and the truth." Writing songs about writing songs is a tricky business, but Mead pulls it off with a heartfelt tribute to country music. Jubilant pedal steel, sanctified piano, and Mead's soulful vocal put the song across with energy to spare. "She Got the Ring (I Got the Finger)" is the kind of arch tune that used to be the stock in trade of singers like George Jones and Johnny Paycheck. A grinding country-rocker with a tongue-in-cheek lyric, a killer hook, and Mead's nasty guitar solo. Rockers like "I Wish It Was Friday" and "Out on the Natchez Trail" have that good-time BR5-49 groove down cold, as does an unexpectedly energetic cover of George Harrison's "Old Brown Shoe" with a hint of reggae in the rhythm guitar and a shrieking guitar solo from Mead. "Gun Metal Gray" starts like an old-time blues with clanking National steel guitar then develops into a serious swampy stomp-full of darkness and violence. "A Long Time Ago" is another tribute to the lost loves and lost dreams that make up the life of a musician, complemented by a weeping pedal steel and another wrenching vocal performance. The set closes with "No Requests," a humorous bit of country-funk that could also be a kiss-off to the music business. An R&B horn section complements a tune that sounds like it was written by Hank Williams and Howlin' Wolf. Everything here is marked by the same kind of sass and class that made BR5-49 so much fun, and should they never re-form, Mead proves that their legacy is in able hands ~ j. poet, Rovi


Born: 22 December 1960 in Nevada, MO

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s, '10s

One of the founding members of the celebrated alt-country quintet BR5-49, Chuck Mead embarked on a solo career when that group went on hiatus after 2006's Dog Days. Along with becoming a staff writer at one of Nashville's leading song publishers and forming the group the Hillbilly All-Stars with members of the Mavericks, Mead was also musical arranger and director of the Broadway hit Million Dollar Quartet from its workshop productions in Daytona and Seattle to its runs in Chicago, New York, and...
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Journeyman's Wager, Chuck Mead
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