They had the vintage shirts, punk rock modus operandi and down-home country twang of a million other bands that emerged from the early '90s "No Depression" scene. And yet, after almost a decade together, BR5-49 continues to push the boundaries of country music with its eclectic blend of hillbilly roots rock.
"Everybody wants a hit record," said vocalist/guitarist Chuck Mead in a recent telephone interview. "But for us, growing as a band and writing great songs has always been the top priority."
On the group's most recent album, Tangled in the Pines, BR5-49 displays the fruits of its laborious, seemingly interminable touring schedule -- which Mead asserts, "comes with the trade" -- by sounding livelier than ever. With scorching guitar lines that evoke Junior Brown at his best, and the sort of beautifully rustic fiddle and dobro interplay that recalls the spirit of Uncle Tupelo, Tangled in the Pines is the work of seasoned veterans committed to making something new out of an old formula.
"Part of what we wanted to come across with this record is the sound of us playing live," said Mead. "That's where our roots are."
Indeed, for BR5-49, live performance has always been the group's ace in the hole. The band, which hails from Nashville, perfected its chops by playing marathon sets in the window of a western clothing store that doubled as a bar, and it was inevitable that their performances, which soon became legendary in the Nashville scene, would attract record label attention. But even after signing to Arista Records in the mid-'90s and landing tour slots with Bob Dylan, Tim McGraw and the Black Crows, among others, BR5-49 has always maintained its unique charm by making music that ignored the commercial constraints of the country music genre.
"We've never quite fit in with what some people have wanted," said Mead. "We just throw our music out there and see if anybody throws anything back."
-- Joe Kuzma
Double Eagle Hotel and Casino, 44 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek
Tuesday, March 30
Tickets $22; 719/689-5021 for tickets and more information