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THURSDAY

Junior Brown’s albums, good as they are, never quite capture his virtuosity in concert. When I first saw the honky-tonker play the Birchmere last year, Brown was hunched over his double-barreled guitar/steel guitar, which rested on a sheet-music stand turned away from him—the better for the audience to marvel at his exhausting, warp-speed finger movements. That bodes well for his return to the Birchmere this year, because his current album—Long Walk Back—is not his best ever. For one thing, it lacks one of his trademark tongue-in-cheek, pun-filled romps. (Maybe Brown is annoyed that BR5-49, his retro-country rivals, beat him to the punch this year with the clever ditty “You Flew the Coop” on their 1998 album Big Backyard Beat Show.) Still, Long Walk Back recapitulates Brown’s winningly wry vocal stylings while also moving in some inspired new directions. While the lyrics of “Rock-A-Hula Baby” make it a familiar Hawaiian-themed period piece for Brown, he—with, for a change, a non-negligible backup-vocal crew—manages to infuse the song with a Presleyan kick. Similarly, Brown & Co. cover the saccharine ’50s toe-tapper “Lookin’ for Love” without soundin’ too idiotic. Perhaps best of all is Brown’s instrumental-only “Peelin’ Taters,” which shows off his fleet fingerings without vocal distraction. See him with opener Allison Moorer at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $19.50. (703) 549-7500. (Louis Jacobson)