After getting dropped by Arista Nashville last summer, the stunningly well-received country rock sextet BR5-49, within moments of its availability, inked a deal with Sony's alt-country imprint Lucky Dog, where it's already working on a new studio album. The smart kids at Sony know when to back a winner. Since the mid-'90s, when it served as the house band at Robert's Western World in Nashville, BR5-49 has built a reputation as one of the hardest-working good-time bands in Music City, satisfying both sides of country's style camps by playing with a reverence for the past and a passion for the future. Like the Squirrel Nut Zippers' swing homage, BR5-49 accomplishes the nearly impossible: writing classic country songs that sound like they belong to someone else and rearranging old songs to make them the band's own. Pretty slick for a group that took its name from a Junior Samples sketch on Hee Haw. BR5-49's knowledge of country's history is legendary. Back in the Western World days, neo-country starchild John Michael Montgomery strolled in one evening and offered singer-guitarist Chuck Mead $25 for every Hank Williams song he could play. With plenty of material to spare, they stopped after running up a tab for $600. The standard line on BR5-49 has always been that it's a band that sounds good in the studio and great on stage. Half of the band's catalog (1996's debut Live From Robert's and last year's Coast to Coast) has been recorded live -- proof that every time it cranks it up in front of an audience, the music's good enough to record and release. It's all just part and parcel of the BR5-49 legend.
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