For BR549, this a modest coda to a delirious decade of wishful thinking. When they first burst out of Nashville with their Arista debut, these five retro country boys landed on the cover of every publication from rockabilly fanzines to the Sunday Times, and they packed midsized clubs with roots-minded urban sophisticates and adventurous old country fans alike (they even hit the country top 40 with no support from commercial radio). Ultimately, however, the group's commitment to Hank Williams wasn't enough to change anything beyond Bob Dylan's wardrobe (word is, they inspired his recent string-tie look).
Now, after the loss of several key members, including co-founder Gary Bennett, BR549 is down to a part-time quartet on the modest Dualtone label. Luckily, the new album, Dog Days, is a testament to the concept "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Although the record is suffused with a warm maturity that betrays little bitterness, the disc chucks the see-no-evil blinders worn by so many roots bands. The loss of America's greatest music city suffuses "After the Hurricane." The story of Indian-rights activist Leonard Peltier forms the core of the loose rocker "Bottom of Priority." But wishful thinking gets a nod in the band's version of Dylan's masterly "When I Paint My Masterpiece."