Fill 'er Up

10-gallon hats and 10-gallon gas tanks come to mind when BR5-49 plays

But for every badass rebel's strut on BR5-49's latest disc (including the rocker "Wild One" and the hilarious swing tune "Out of Habit"), there's also something sweet. "Storybook Endings" features Bennett strumming acoustic guitar and crooning over a waltz tempo while mandolin, piano and other instruments create a lush background. Bennett's quivering, nasal vocal delivery enhances the mood as he sings that "Castles and tales where the prince finds the princess ain't real/If you stop believin'."

"We're becoming more focused, realizing what we really are -- instead of a novelty cover band or whatever, you know," says Bennett. "We're doing almost all originals now on stage." With a newly released live album, Coast to Coast (which, ironically, does include a clutch of covers from Bob Wills and Charlie Daniels to Gram Parsons), the band is touring, seemingly incessantly, while Bennett and Mead continue to write songs.

While three Grammy nominations (all for cover tunes, it's worth noting) over the past four years isn't bad for any band, Bennett believes that BR5-49 has not yet fulfilled its potential, especially as a catalyst in reinvigorating the country scene. "I think it's pretty obviously at the end of a cycle. A lot of people hate to see that, and a lot of people are glad to see it," he says. "Nothing new can start without sort of a tearing down of the old guard or the current establishment. And I think that's what's happening in country music."

BR5-49: From left, Chuck Mead, Don Herron, "Hawk" Shaw Wilson, Gary Bennett and "Smilin'" Jay McDowell.
Robert Matheau
BR5-49: From left, Chuck Mead, Don Herron, "Hawk" Shaw Wilson, Gary Bennett and "Smilin'" Jay McDowell.

BR5-49 is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, April 18, at the Bash on Ash in Tempe, with the Road Kings. Showtime is 8 p.m.

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