Hear ye hear ye all you old farts, all of you jackasses, all of you oldies who fall under Blake Shelton’s ire for only wanting to listen to grandpa’s music. Jim Ed Brown, the country music legend and Grand Ole Opry icon, known fondly for much of his career as a member of the family band The Browns, has released his first solo record in over 40 years, and he beat lung Cancer to do it. So you best listen, and listen good.
The news came down in September 2014 that Jim Ed Brown had received the Cancer diagnosis after he’d missed a few weeks of engagements. But you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong before then. At 80-years-old, Jim Ed Brown made a whopping 50 appearances on the Grand Ole Opry in 2014, making him one of the most frequent performers on the show, all while taking in other touring engagements, and conducting his syndicated Country Music Greats Radio Show, and recording this album. No, there’s no signs of Jim Ed slowing down anytime soon, and almost like it was part of a divine plan, at the same time Jim Ed released In Style Again through Plowboy Records, the word came down that his Cancer was in remission.
There’s just something so cozy about Jim Ed Brown’s music, even more so than from most country artists of an advanced age. The fact that his style hasn’t really changed at all since the late 50’s isn’t something that holds it back, it’s what makes it endearing. Jim Ed’s music is like the pipe smoke and pies baking smell of your grandparents house; like the simple pleasure of a hard candy. There’s just something about the familiar and the expected that’s reassuring, and that’s why Jim Ed Brown has endured as an entertainer across multiple generations.
There’s a message to this new album In Style Again, however subtle. It’s one of self-awareness and reflection, reinforced by the title and cover photo. There’s Jim Ed sitting at a dinner table amongst all this anachronistic finery that feels so dated, including a salt and pepper shaker made as little replicas of the RCA dog—a call back to Brown’s once long-tenured record label—yet there’s this proclamation about being “In Style Again.” It’s a little bit of genius quietly delivered.
Though Jim Ed touches on many subjects, the songs “In Style Again,” “Older Guy,” and “Am I Still Country?” seem to set the theme of the record of an older artist being passed on by, but grinning coyly from the wisdom of how learning to slow down is one of the virtues in life, as the younger artists rush past in a bid to be a part of the here and now. “Am I Still Country?” could almost be considered a country protest song in its own playful way. “I don’t have a tattoo or wear an earring, my sweet mama don’t wear skin tight jeans…,” While “In Style Again” could equally allude to a lover, or the music industry.
In Style Again is a good mix of some fairly well-known covers like Bill Anderson’s “Lucky Enough” and the old standard “Don’t Let Me Cross Over,” and a lot of newer songs written by Don Cusic who also produced the effort. There’s also some great love songs here like “I Love It” and “Laura (Do You Love Me).” The vocals are the centerpiece of In Style Again, and notable harmony contributors include Vince Gill, sister Bonnie Brown on the excellent opening number “When The Sun Says Hello the the Mountain,” and The Whites who lend their voices to various tracks. Bobby Bare also produced the title track of the record.
What new school fans don’t understand about old school country music is that it can be such a catalyst for memory, enhancing the listening experience beyond the enhanced value of the music itself. Jim Ed Brown and In Style Again embody this notion in the truest sense, and make for warm, enjoyable moments that leave you happy even when the music stops.
1 1/2 of 2 Guns Up.
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