By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

April 15, 2004

"Tangled in the Pines"
Dualtone Records

Pick up the phone and dial BR5-49, and you might reach Junior Samples from "Hee Haw." But you're more likely to get this reconstituted band of Nashville retros churning out their decidedly noncommercial mix of country, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll filtered through a post-punk attitude. On "Tangled in the Pines," the band's fifth CD and first in about three years, frontman Chuck Mead, drummer Shaw Wilson and play-anything MVP Don Herron are joined by newbies Geoff Firebaugh on bass and Chris (grandson of Earl) Scruggs on guitar.For the first time, all of the tunes are originals, but they still echo the band's influences: Johnny Cash on the title song; George Jones, albeit on steroids, on the don't-trust-'em warning "No Friend of Mine"; and Hank Williams Sr. and his yodel on "When I Come Home" ("from honky tonkin'").

BR549 - they've dropped the hyphen from Junior's phone number - hits with the traditional, from "That's What I Get," in which the unexpected love of a good woman keeps a man from returning to the honky-tonks, to "Honky Tonkin' Lifestyle," in which neither friends, family nor God can get a man to leave them.

All of the players get room to stretch on this CD, which was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs. And engineer Paul Gannon and mixer Ray "Twangtrust" Kennedy have given BR549's sound an immediacy and solid kick.

It may sound retro, but think of it as so old it's new again.