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JON BYRD —ROUTE 41 (Long Leaf Records)



Traditional country performer, singer-songwriter Jon Byrd is one of the finest exponents of spit and sawdust country coming out of the East Nashville’s scene and beyond. It will come as no surprise to those familiar with the scene he has some fine musicians back up his work. For this record, Alabama born and raised Byrd has gone for interpretations of some of his friends’ songs, both by those back where he started in Atlanta and those in Nashville. Although he is a songwriter himself, and a good lead guitarist too. In fact it was as a sideman he came to Nashville, a Telecaster guitar slinger. Playing on records by Davis Raines & His Faders, Texan country singer, Buck Jones, Americana act Stephen Simmons and Suzette & her Neon Angels.  


Produced by Byrd and guitarist Thomm Jutz (Mary Gauthier etc)—it has Fats Kaplin (fiddle, pedal steel guitar, mandolin), Steve Conn (piano, organ, accordion), Duane Blevins (electric bass), Mark Fain (Upright bass) Justin Amaral (drums) plus Shannon Wright, Sara Beck and Milan Miller on backing vocals. The record leaks country soul. The kind found shared over a beer in dim lit barrooms as stories are told and hearts opened. Byrd’s superb handling of instantly addictive, fiddle warmed “George Jones (Has Never Sung About My Girl)”, sad-eyed tune “Walk On By” and with swirling steel guitar and wonderful shuffling rhythm “I’ll Play Angel” plus the reflective “Would You Like To Dance”. One of two songs bearing the name of songwriter, Adam Wright it glides, effortlessly from start to finish as fiddle; steel and harmony vocals escort the song home.


Others of note include poignant pieces, one concerning a bartender and of him recollecting his troubles “In The Back Of Your Mind” (Mando Saenz, Will Kimbrough). The other being “Going To Montgomery”, where to the sound of brooding guitar, piano he speaks of Martin Luther King Jr and Hank Williams Snr and of his girl. “Wine” (Peter Cooper, Baker Maultsby) is another, finely penned and performed country song, and with Kaplin and Steve Conn playing a big part it is an out and out winner. Hard core (and Americana) country fans need to check this guy out and also watch for dates of a top-class act. 


                                                                 Maurice Hope   

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