Ready For Some Serious Country?

Fegenbush Farm (Independent)

Johnny Berry & the Outliers

By Tim Roberts

There's a telling lyric in "Last of a Dying Breed," the opening track of Fegenbush Farm, from Johnny Berry & the Outliers: "In a field full of corn, a rose is still a weed." Sad to think that one of nature's most beautiful plants, to some a symbol of perfection, to many a symbol of passion, can be as out of place as a freight train engine in a nudist colony.

Unfortunately, in the realm of current "hot" country music, the kinds of songs on which the genre was built, are viewed as intrusive, so much so that another genre, "Americana," has been coined as a catchall for the kind of music that country radio won't play and its fans might not buy. It is the hothouse to which the roses of authentic country are transplanted, tended and appreciated.

With Fegenbush Farm, just as they did with last year's Shoot! Darn! Yeah!, Berry and his band have built a hothouse of their own for the roses of traditional-sounding country music. Joined by Steve Cooley on guitars. Andy Brown on drums and a score of Louisville musicians including Peter Searcy, Eric Whorton, Wink O'Bannon and Brigid Kaelin helping out, Berry's second recording has the kind of country sound that nice people would dance to on the glistening wooden floor at the old Doo-Drop Inn here in Louisville. With it, you can imagine that Sissy and Bud, the two characters in Urban Cowboy, are still two-stepping at Gilley's, that Porter Wagoner still has a wavy blonde pompadour and that Hee Haw is still on the air. In between tracks you almost expect to hear a group of voices shout, "Hey, Grandpa, what's for supper?"

Throughout Fegenbush, Berry's songs are tight and concise, with lyrics that key into the simple part of life: a celebration of distinction in "Last of a Dying Breed," a simple statement of love in "Lying Down," the tender nurturing heard in "The Winter Sparrow," the finality of a broken relationship in the appropriately-titled "The End." Berry also covers two country classics, Jerry Chesnut's "Another Place, Another Time" and Johnny Cash's "Mean Eyed Cat."

Whether he's doing a cover or an original, Berry's melodic baritone-bass vocals carry each song with inflections and drawls on the right vowel sounds to make you long for the days of Buck Owens, Vitalis cowlick hairstyles and Manuel suits with rhinestone sequins.

It's that country.

What Johnny Berry & the Outliers have created with Fegenbush Farm isn't just a tribute to a type of music that has been gradually shoved aside. The recording is an affirmation of it, of its place in the history of American music and of its stature in our culture.

It celebrates the single rose that grows in a field of corn.

Keep it country at www.johnnyberrymusicnews.net.