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Jr. Juggernaut keeps alt-country fresh

January 21, 2009

These days it seems like every other band out there is toting the “alt-country” tag, and the term “Americana” gets tossed around a lot. Keeping this is mind, bands in this genre need to work a little harder to stand out. However, Jr. Juggernaut, a three-piece alt-country group from Los Angeles, manages to do just this on their album Ghost Poison.

So, how have they done it? Jr. Juggernaut makes it look simple, really. Lead singer and guitarist Mike Williamson has a gruff, deep voice that stands out right away, but with back-up vocals from bassist Kevin Keller and drummer Waleed Rashidi, he doesn’t come off as sounding too rough. Williamson’s coarseness balances perfectly with the harmonies, and gives Jr. Juggernaut’s music a fun, poppy flavor. The catchy chorus of the track “Believe in Something” displays this balance well, and sounds a bit like Ted Leo + Pharmacists.

But even more than adding pop to their alt-country sound, Jr. Juggernaut frequently rocks, and rocks hard, on Ghost Poison. On “Wailing West,” Williamson has a scorching guitar solo that just begs the listener to crank the volume up. Most of the songs on the album are up-tempo and just plain fun to listen to, even when the song’s lyrics don’t match its cheerful music. (One of the album’s best tracks, “Gone Before You Start,” mixes the subject of a child’s death with a foot-tapping, harmonica-blasting, rockin’ beat.)

Ghost Poison is, overall, a very solid album that deserves to be listened to loudly, and Jr. Juggernaut should not be written off as just another alt-country band.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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