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  Dunch on Sunday.19.January.2003  
  The EARL  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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After an extra long weekend of late nights, loud music, and smoky bars, some of us minions recover at our favorite Sunday brunch outing: The EARL’s Dunch, a soothing mixture of hash browns, acoustic music, and Bloody Marys. Dunch can be a risky proposition, though, because some bands are, well, not necessarily as “hangover friendly” as The EARL would hope. And, some bands are just not suited to Dunch’s cramped window-corner stage and its ubiquitous sound of tinkling forks. And sometimes, bands have been known to show up closer to suppertime than brunch.

But, as with any venue, atmosphere, or playbill, one band stands out as the quintessential Dunch band: The Bluejays. This five-piece alt-country act integrates two-part vocal harmony with smooth pedal steel guitar and tight rhythmic backing. The Sunday afternoon in question was particularly pleasing, and not just because Dunch’s special dish was trout. The Bluejays played an exceptionally tight set highlighting what has become a solid mixture of country/roots originals and folk/rock covers. Most songs are led by what I presume to be the band’s namesake, Jay Murphree, whose velvet voice echoes some of the best old time crooners. Perhaps one of the most beautiful is the original, What Kind of Girl? That song, along with several other of the band’s best (You’ll Cry, Too; Never Promised You a Rose Garden) is just about the only music that ever made me wish I could two-step.

Not that The Bluejays are easily classified. Just as soon as they hit critical mass with their version of country-fried roots, Matt Spaugh steps out of the backing vocals to add a more classic rock feel, covering such standards as 19th Nervous Breakdown. (Spaugh is also known to cover Last Train to Clarksville, but it was sadly missing on this Sunday.) Though his backing harmony blends well with Murphree’s chocolate delivery, Spaugh’s rendition of Train, Train reveals a gravel voice closer akin to Bob Dylan than Roy Rogers.

With their mixture of unplugged-friendly instruments like acoustic bass, subtle rhythm guitar, and quiet snare, The Bluejays both soothe the tired ears of many Dunch patrons and accentuate the grits ‘n eggs short-order feel of the EARL in the afternoon. Even with five members, makeshift equipment, and a small setup space, The Bluejays seem to mix some of the best live sound in town. Few bands could negotiate multiple cell phones, frequent slamming doors, and occasional crying infants as effortlessly. With an older, laid-back lineup of musicians, they are arguably the most mellow band I’ve seen in Atlanta. In the words of another minion, “They’re sort of country music on Quaaludes.” Now, that’s what I call “hangover friendly” music.

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