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Playing Around: Junior Brown 

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Junior Brown is quite possibly the most innovative guitar player alive, especially considering that he doesn't even play the guitar.

Born in the Indiana woods, Brown grew up with his pianist father, tapping out simple melodies based on the country-and-western music that flowed from the radio. Latching onto richly traditional influences like Ernest Tubb, Brown began to develop his own unique style on an old hand-me-down guitar. After playing professionally in several rock and psychedelic bands, Brown taught guitar under the auspices of legendary steel player Leon McAulliffe before moving to Austin. His love for the electric and steel guitars had him awkwardly trying to play both on stage, limiting his instrumental flexibility.

In 1985, Junior went to sleep and had a dream in which the two guitars melded into one two-necked instrument. Junior brought the idea to a luthier, and together they created the guit-steel, a large, strangely shaped, electrified string instrument that Brown plays on a slanted stand.

This combination of the two allows Brown to let out the devils in his head, and they move his fingers like fire. Reaching from Hendrix to swing to Southern rock to Moon Mulligan, Brown's bizarre performances always land in the barnyard muck of real, honest country. Junior can make his guit-steel talk like a Sacred Steel, he can make it stutter out an overly complicated succession of notes like a horn, and he can make it draw the simplest shuffle into a flowing river of aural honey. Fleshed out by his wackadoo lyrics and growling, gut-deep baritone, Junior's act is not one to keep you in your seat.

Brown performs at the Music Hall (all-ages this time!) on Tuesday night. Tickets are $15. Call 800/965-4827.

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