Rockabilly

Ryan Cain and the Ables / Chaotics

Ryan Cain & the Ables – Cupid and the Devil 

ryan cain

Self released [2016]
Hepcat Habitat – Knots – Drinkin’ Wine Spodee Odee – Selfie Of Your Heart – I Call Bullshit – Tears Of Doom – Cupid And The Devil – Waltz Wrong With This Picture – Go Boy Go – Talk To Me – Keep The Change – Kill Devil Hillbilly

Released in 2016, Cupid and the Devil is the second album from Ryan Cain and the Ables after My pistol Rides Shotgun in 2012. Cain formerly played with Ryan Cain and the Chaotics, who had an album on Wild Hare in 2008. Brandon Elmore, who plays bass on this album, also played in the Chaotics.

The opener is a medium Rockabilly number somewhat reminiscent of Johnny Powers. 13 Knots follows. It features a Spanish guitar reminiscent of the Marty Robbins’ Gunfighters ballads like El Paso or Big Iron. Next is a cover of Sticks McGhee’s Drinkin’ Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee, though Cain’s cover is obviously influenced by Johnny Burnette’s. This is not the only song that shows the influence of the Rock’n’Roll Trio. One can also hear it on Go Boy Go as well as the title track and I Call Bullshit, a frantic Rockabilly on which Cain almost ran out of oxygen.
But Cain has the excellent idea to keep things varied. Hence some songs lean more on the country and western side of things, like the Johnny Cash-tinged Keep The Change. Also, Selfie Of Your Heart is a superb country shuffle with a fiddle. And if the opening riff of Tears of Doom sounds like Tomorrow Night, the nasal voice and the fiddle firmly anchor the song in the hillbilly idiom. 
Two ballads complete the set Talk To Me and Waltz Wrong with This Picture which only lacks the Jordanaires to be perfect.
In a surprising manner, the album ends with a Surf instrumental, which is good but sounds a bit out of place.

If you’re looking for a traditional-sounding Rockabilly and Rock’n’roll album with country echoes, look no further, Ryan Cain’s Cupid and the Devil is perfect for you. It’s a perfect album, produced with taste and excellently recorded.

Fred ”Virgil” Turgis

Hal Peters trio / & his Stringdusters

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Hal Peters and his Trio – Takes on Carl Perkins

hal peters trio

Bluelight, BLR 33218 1 [2022]
Big Bad Blues – You Can’t Make Love to Somebody – Lonely Heart – Turn Around – Somebody Tell Me – I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry – Dixie Fried – Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby – Forever Yours – Matchbox – Movie Magg – Boppin’ the Blues – Just Coastin’ – Tennessee

One of Europe’s best Rockabilly bands, the Hal Peters Trio, formed nearly 40 years ago. And their relationship with Carl Perkins dates from the same period. The compilation album Goofin’ Around featured a cover of Gone Gone Gone recorded in 1985 during a rehearsal. On subsequent releases, they often included songs from Perkins: Perkin’s Wiggle and Tennessee on their debut album, Somebody Tell Me on Baby I’m Ready in 1991 and more recently Gone Gone Gone on Crazy Mixed Up Blues in 2018.
Their latest album features 14 tracks, all written or recorded by Carl Perkins, except for I’m Sorry, I’m Not Sorry, written by Wanda Ballman.
An all-covers album is always a delicate thing. Moreover, an album dedicated to just one artist. The hardest thing is to find a good distance between fidelity and originality. If you’re too faithful to the original, what’s the point and if you’re too adventurous, there’s a risk of betraying the beauty of the original.
Fear not, my friends! Hal Peters and his band (Eino Rastas on guitar, Timo Uimonen on double bass, and Janne Junnilainen on drums) found the correct approach. Their success resides in two things (well, three, if you count their musicianship). First, they made a perfect selection. The correct balance between Sun hits and lesser-known tracks, covering the fifties and the sixties. They were clever enough not to stick to Sun, but also they also added songs Perkins had recorded for Brunswick, Columbia and even a tune that was only demoed (Somebody Tell Me). The result is a selection that ranges from his hillbilly debuts to his late 60s rockin’ sides.
The second ingredient is love. They don’t let the respect they have for Perkins’ recording legacy paralyse them. Thus, the result is not a sterile re-creation but a joyful celebration. You can’t help but tap your feet and sing with them. And they manage to add their own personality in the process.
The biggest achievement of this fine platter is that you never think, “I’d rather listen to the originals”. And that, considering the immense talent of Carl Perkins, this is not a small feat.
Note: the LP version features Turn Around instead of Let the Jukebox Keep On Playing and Honky Tonk Blues instead of Movie Magg.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Hal Peters and his Stringdusters - Western Standard Time
Hal Peters and his Stringdusters – Western Standard Time

Hal Peters and his String Dusters – Western Standard Time

Bluelight Records. BLR 331132 [2004]
Late For Lovin’ – Eatin’ Right Out Of Your Hand – Without You – Time/Careless Words – Ciggarets, Jukebox and A Bar Room – I Hear You Talkin’ – Take Back Your Paperheart – Play The Music Louder – My Front Door Is Open – If I Don’t Love You (Grits Ain’t Croseries) – I’m Satisfied With You – Diamonds And Cadillacs – Guess Things Happen That Way

One often says that to make good country music and especially western-swing, it is necessary to be american and live in the south of the country if possible! All this is bullshit and I ‘m gonna disclose it right now : there is a band in Finland which, since many years now, forged itself a reputation whose exceeded the borders and is far from being usurped. Hal Peters and his String Dusters’ fellows form today part of the best formations of Western-Swing and this new album «Western Standard Time» proves it easily.Since their beginnings in the rockabilly music as a quartet (Hal Peters and his Trio) the combo has changed its name, stretched and moved towards a hillbilly bop and western-swing style inspired by Curtis Gordon (to whom this album is dedicated) Roy Hogsed or Hank Thompson. These accomplished musicians who divided themselves between other bands give to this album a credibility who largely exceeds a number of other bands which today launch out in this musical kind. Listen to «Late For Lovin’» a composition of Hal Peters (his real name is Heikki Laakkonen) and you will immediately be transported to Texas or Oklahomain the middle of the Fifties. The rest of the album will firmly anchor you to it during the fourteen titles with a small detour towards the rockabilly sound of Memphis with the participation of Hayden Thompson («Diamonds and Cadillacs») and the «Cash» soundalike with the cover of «Guess Things Happen That Way». Is Helsinki goin’ to overshadow Turkey as the home of Western-Swing?? Who knows.??

David Phisel


Hal Peters and his Trio - Fireball Mail
Hal Peters and his Trio – Fireball Mail

Hal Peters and his Trio – Fireball Mail

Goofin Record GRCD 6038 {1994}
Fireball Mail – Make Up Your Mind – Rock Me Up – Baby I’m Ready – You’re My Very Special Baby – Doggone It/If You Don’t, Somebody Else Will – You’re There – Satisfied – Starlight – When I Saw Your Face In The Moon/You’re Gone – Steelin’Home – Blue Blue Day – Tired Of Rockin’ – Rock, Roll, Jump and Jive – Snatch It And Grab It – Big Fool – Have I Told You Lately That I Love You – You Can’t Do Me No Wrong – Perkins Wiggle – Slippin’ Out And Sneakin’ In – Tennessee – If You Can’t Rock Me – Love Charms – Blue Days-Black Nights – Freight Train

A must have. This cd album contains the band’s debut album (Snatch It and Grab It), songs from various singles, eps, compilations and a selection of songs from their 1991 album « Baby I’m Ready« . And if it wasn’t enough it also features five brand new recording that announce the new direction – more western swing – taken by the band in the following years.

Fred « Virgil » Turgis


Hank Ewards - In the silence of the Night
Hank Ewards – In the silence of the Night

Hank Edwards With Hal Peters And His Trio – In the Silence of the Night

Goofin Records GOOFY 533 {1992}
In the Silence of the Night – I Wish I Has a Nickel
Another case of « wrong time, wrong place ». Had Hank Edward come from the USA and been active in the late 40’s/early 50’s, he would have shared the stage of the Opry or the Hayride with Hank Williams or some other great names of the time. Instead he comes from Sweden and began releasing records in the 80’s for an audience of fine connoisseurs.
This honky tonk single released for Goofin seems to come straight from the 50’s. Everything here is close to perfection the songs (one original on side A and a cover of Hank Williams that certain discovered under the name of Tell Me Little Darlin on the Riverside Trio debut album – on the side B), the voice and the backing provided by the always excellent Hal Peters and his trio.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Hal Peters and his Trio - You Don't Have to Worry ep
Hal Peters and his Trio – You Don’t Have to Worry ep

Hal Peters and his Trio – EP

Goofin’ Goofy 511 {1988}
You Don’t Have To Worry – If You Don’t, Somebody Else Will – Doggone It – When I Saw Your Face In The Moon

The name has changed to Hal Peters and his Trio with the addition of Jussi Huhtakangas on drums and steel guitar but the quality remains. A guest fiddle can also be heard on Jimmy and Johnny’s If You Don’t, Somedy Else Will. The result is one great rockabilly number (Joe Clay’s Doggone It) and three mellower hillbilly bop straight from Texas circa 1955.

Fred « Virgil » Turgis


Hal Peters Trio - Snatch It and Grab It!
Hal Peters Trio – Snatch It and Grab It!

Hal Peters Trio – Snatch It and Grab It!

 

Moondogs SRLP 8525 {1986}
Rock, Roll, Jump and Jive – Snatch It And Grab It – Big Fool – Have I Told You Lately That I Love You – You Can’t Do Me No Wrong – Perkins Wiggle – Slippin’Out And Sneakin’ In – Tennessee – If You Can’t Rock Me – Love Charms – Blue Days-Black Nights – Freight Train

Released in 1986 Snatch It and Grab It is the debut album of this Finish trio. They formed in 1984 with Heikki Laakkonen on vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar, Eino Rastas a mighty guitar player in the style of Hal Harris formerly of the Rhythm Wheel Combo and Timo Uimonen on double bass. They are probably one the best rockabilly band of the eighties and one the very few to capture the feeling of the 50’s recordings.
Despite a majority of covers (Carls Perkins, Freddie Hart, Curtis Gordon, Buddy Holly, Joe Clay…) and only one self penned tune (You Cant Do Me No Wrong) they manage to have a highly personnal sound. Most of the songs are in the drummerless trio format though one can here a light drums on some tracks and occasional piano. Excellent from start to finish
Later reissued with various other tracks on the cd album « Fireball Mail » (Goofin records GRCD 6038).
Fred « Virgil » Turgis

Hal Peters and his Trio
Hal Peters and his Trio

Mac Curtis

Mac Curtis – Early In The Morning/Nashville Marimba Band

mac curtisBluelight Records – BLR 33224 2
Early In The Morning – Big Boss Man – Ain’t That A Shame – Blues Man – Baby What You Want Me To Do – Maybelline – Gulf Stream Line – Stagger Lee – I’d Run A Mile – I Got A Woman – When The Hurt Moves In – Him Or Me (What’s It Gonna Be) – Running Bear – I Fall To Pieces – Gentle On My Mind – For The Good Times – Orange Blossom Special – Spanish Eyes – Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town – Careless Hands – Help Me Make It Through The Night – Devil’s Dream – Pistol Packin’ Mama – She Knows All The Good Ways To Be Bad

In 1970 Mac Curtis recorded Early in the Morning, an album on which he revisited songs from the fifties with a Country edge. The songs came from the catalogues of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Reed, Ray Charles, Lloyd Price, etc., with a couple of originals thrown in for good measure.
The repertoire ranged from the bluesy, albeit with steel guitar, Baby What You Want Me to Do, to the Country shuffle of When The Hurts Moves In, which would be perfect for Dale Watson, with a bit of Swamp Rock in between with Gulfstream Line. The majority of the remaining songs are on a thin line between country and Rock’n’roll, and the result is close to what Carl Perkins recorded during the same period.
The musicianship is excellent throughout, but that’s not a surprise with musicians like Tommy Allsup and Leon Rhodes on guitars, Charlie McCoy on harmonica, DJ Fontana on drums, and Curtis’s deep and rich voice beautifully serves the whole album.
The following year, Mac Curtis returned to the studio to record Mac Curtis’ Nashville Marimba band in one day. This is a surprising album, to say the least. Still, with a crew of first-rate musicians, Curtis revisits a set of Country classics in instrumental versions done in an exotica/easy-listening mood. However, it features some sparkling moments on guitar and hot fiddle parts from Johnny Gimble. It’s the kind of album you’re happy to own and play to your friends to see their reaction. You really have to hear their version of Gentle On My Mind to believe it.
Two excellent Country numbers with a Rockabilly feel, recorded in 1974, rounds up the set.
All in all, you have one excellent album, a curiosity and two hot bonus tracks. That’s more than enough to make you jump on this reissue.


mac-curtis-rollinrock
Mac Curtis – the Rollin Rock Recordings 1

Mac Curtis – the Rollin Rock Recordings 1

Part records
Big D Women – Baby Let’s Play House – Heartbreakin’ Mama – Fannie Mae – Sidetrack Mama – Holdin’ On – Good Rockin’ Tonight – Amarillo Killer – Hot Rocks – Crazy Crazy Lovin’ – Wild Wild Women – You Hurt Me – Sexy Ways – Good Rockin’ Tomorrow – Wake Up Rock’n’roll Rock-A-Baby – Hard Hearted Girl – Party Line – Turn To Me – For Your Love – Rockabilly Uprising – Been Gone A Long Time – Juice Box – Gone Out Of My Mind – Wildcat Tamer – Let’s Go

Mac Curtis is a true Rockabilly legend and in my humble opinion he recorded some of the very best sides of the genre. In 1972 he got in touch with the no-less legendary Ronnie Weiser of Rollin’ Rock and Ray Campi (the full story is explained in the very informative booklet featuring notes by Mac Curtis himself) to make some new Rockabilly recordings.
The first album to result from those sessions was Ruffabilly on which he’s backed by Campi (dobro, guitar, bass), Steve Bailey (drums) and Jimmie Lee Maslon on harmonica for one track. This is superior Rockabilly music, especially if you replace it in the period (the 70’s) with powerful slap bass and at the time with the exception of Charlie Feathers very few could come closer to the real thing than Mac Curtis. The liner notes explain why there are three Johnny Carroll tunes on that album: Campi and Curtis believed that the singer had died and wanted to pay homage to him.
The second album included here is “Good Rockin’ Tomorrow” and is equally good with Campi playing all the instruments and Billy Zoom (X) guesting on saxophone. In all you have 25 recordings that are 25 little rockabilly gems that deserve to be in anyone’s collection. They also show the importance of Mac Curtis and Rollin Rock on the European scene in the 70’s from the Teddy Boys to the burgeoning psychobilly scene.

Brian Setzer

Brian Setzer - The Knife feels like justice
Brian Setzer – The Knife feels like justice

Brian Setzer – The Knife feels like Justice

EMI [1986]
The Knife Feels Like Justice – Haunted River – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Bobby’s Back – Radiation Ranch – Chains Around Your Heart – Maria – Three Guys – Aztec – Breath Of Life – Barbwire Fence

In 1984, Setzer came to a point in his career where he felt too limited with the labels “Rockabilly” and “Guitar Hero” sticked to him. He wanted to show and prove he was more than a Grestch guy who sings about Cadillacs an Pin-Ups. With a more ambitious vision in mind he parted way with the Stray Cats and reinvented himself as a heartland rocker (on a side note it was also the beginning of the mullet period). He was helped in this process by Don Gehman the man behind the sound of John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow and, according to his own words, by a “real band” (understand two guitars, a full drumkit, a keyboard and an electric bass) including members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp) and Tommy Byrnes who was for a brief period the fourth Stray Cats.
After an apparition at the first Farm Aid, the debut album from the “new” Setzer was released in 1986. If the result is not entirely convincing and really sounds dated by moment (especially that typical 80’s drums sound), the curious and open-minded listener will find a couple of good things.
The title track opens brillantly the disc and sets the pace (though the lyrics are still obscure to me). “Bobby’s Back” is a dip into R&B (via MTV) and was already present in the Stray Cats setlist in 1984, as is “Barbwire Fence” another highlight of the album. “Radiation Ranch” is a solid rocker based upon a simple but efficient guitar riff, later recycled to write “Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder)” more than ten years later.
But the real good surprises come from “Aztec” (co-written with Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell) and “Maria” (another collaboration, this time with Steve Van Zandt) both with a strong social comment revealing a new side of Setzer. Even though some stuff is just average, the whole album remains coherent. But Setzer didn’t pursue in this way and without a clear vision of what to do of his “freedom” (without a pre-definite musical genre) he oriented himself toward FM rock on the catastrophic “Live Nude Guitar”, but this is another story.

Brian Setzer Radiation Ranch


Brian Setzer – Live Nude Guitar

EMI Manhattan [1988]
Red Lightning Blues – Rockability – Rebelene – Nervous Breakdown – Every Tear That Falls – Temper Sure Is Risin’ – When the Sky Comes Tumblin’ Down – She Thinks I’m Trash – Love Is Repaid by Love Alone – Rosie in the Middle – So Young, So Bad, So What – The Rain Washed Everything Away

After The Knife Feels Like Justice failed to convince the audience (but was he really convinced himself?), Setzer knew he had to return to familiar territories. He dropped the second guitar and the keyboards and reduced the line-up to a power trio. With the faithful Tommy Byrnes switching on bass and Jerry Angel on drums, Setzer put back his guitar up to the fore. If he couldn’t be considered as a serious songwriter, he could still play the rocker card.
Ironically, if Setzer left the Stray Cats in 1984 to be free from the Rockabilly image, it appeared that he didn’t know what to do with that newly acquired freedom. If its predecessor showed some coherence, trying to follow the steps of John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen, Live Nude Guitars is a collection of songs that go in every direction possible. For better and mostly for worse.
Things begin not that bad with Red Lightnin’ Blues (a heavy rocker) and Rockability that could have been a Stray Cats track. Rebelene is still good though a bit wasted by the production. On Nervous Breakdown, Setzer sounds like a parody of himself. How Setzer, who claimed his love for Cochran everywhere, can miss this cover? It’s beyond me.
Every Tear is even worse; it’s one of the worst songs of the album: a pop ballad with an awful FM production.
Temper Sure Is Risin’ gives you hope. It’s not great, but it’s a boogie-rock with a hot guitar solo and Bruce Willis on harmonica.
But these hopes vanished instantly with When the Sky Comes Tumblin’ Down. It’s not enough that the song is terrible, but the production is awful, and the synthesizer horns nearly made my ears bleed.
Once again, the terrible production waste the few qualities one could find in She Thinks I’m Trash.
Love Is Repaid By Love Alone is a good song. It’s too much on many aspects (the strings, Setzer who tries to put as many notes as he can) but, somehow, it works.
With just a light guitar and an accordion, Rosie In the Middle seems a bit out of place. It’s without a doubt the best song of the album, and one can regret that Setzer didn’t go more in that direction for that record. But it’s not enough to save Live Nude Guitar. Especially when it’s followed by So Young So Bad, So What (can you do something more cliché? I don’t think so.) and The Rain Washed Everything Away. After all these years I still wonder if it’s a joke or not.
Setzer toured briefly during the Summer of 1988, but by the end of the year, the Stray Cats were back on tracks.

Brian Setzer Live nude guitar


Brian Setzer Collection 81-88
Brian Setzer Collection 81-88

Brian Setzer – Brian Setzer Collection 81-88

EMI
(She’s) Sexy + 17 – Rock This Town – Summertime Blues – The Knife Feels Like Justice – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Echo Park – When The Sky Comes Tumblin’ Down – Cross Of Love – Every Tear That Falls – Thing About You – Waitin’ For Desiree – Bobby’s Back – Keep Your Lovin’ Strong – Living Souls – The Rain Washed Everything Away – I Won’t Stand In Your Way – Runaway Boys – Chains Around Your Heart
EMI released this compilation album when, call that a coincidence, Setzer was toping the charts with his 17-piece big band and the excellent Dirty Boogie album.
Chances are the newly converted to the sound of the Orchestra might have been surprised by the stuff included in that album. With the exception of four Stray Cats songs that sound a bit out a place, the songs date from a period when Setzer tried to reinvent himself as a serious rocker closer to Tom Petty, John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen. Nothing wrong with that, and despite a production that sounds terribly dated now,  there’s a lot of good things on the two albums recording during that era (the Knife Feels Like Justice and Live Nude Guitar) but they lacked of that little something that made the difference with the Stray Cats or his later solo stuff.
What really makes this compilation worthwile, especially for Setzer hardcore fans, are the the B-sides  and the many unreleased outtakes, some being very good like the Springteen-esque Waiting For Desiree. Some of the songs from that period (Cross of Love and Thing About You) would later be recorded by the Stray Cats. It also includes the version of Summertime Blues than the one recorded for the movie La Bamba.


Brian Setzer – Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy

Brian setzerSurfdog Records 44022-2 [2003]
Sixty Years – Don’t Trust A Woman (in A Black Cadillac) – When The Bells Don’t Chime – That Someone Just Ain’t You – Rat Pack Boogie – Ring, Ring, Ring – Drink Whiskey And Shut Up – Smokin” n Burnin’ – Wild Wind – St. Jude – To Be Loved – When The Bells Don’t Chime (banjo Mix)

Recorded with Johnny Spazz Hatton on bass and Bernie Dresel on drums and released just after the fabulous Ignition, Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy came, at first, as a disappointment. Only years later, I gave this album a second chance, and boy, was I right to do so. Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy deserved to be rediscovered.
The first two tracks, Sixty Years and Don’t Trust A Woman, sound like Live Nude Guitar with a hint of ZZ Top blues in the guitar for the former. Setzer also achieved a similar sound with songs like Can’t Go Back To Memphis on Choo Choo Hot Fish. More or less in the same vein is Drink Whiskey and Shut Up. This tune, propelled by a powerful jungle drum beat, wouldn’t be out of place on a George Thorogood album.
When The Bells Don’t Chime is a country song with a sixties feel and lovely harmony vocals. One can find two versions of this song; the second one puts the banjo to the fore, giving the song a more bluegrass feel.
That Someone Just Ain’t You dates from the early ’90s. The Stray Cats demoed the song for Let’s Go Faster, but it never was recorded for the album. It’s nice to have it resurrected, for it’s an excellent Doo-wop inspired song like the Stray cats could do.
Rat-Pack Boogie is an instrumental, with Setzer demonstrating his massive talent on the fretboard, mixing Jazz, Country picking and Rockabilly all into one song.
Ring Ring Ring is a perfect example of Setzer’s brand of Rockabilly, similar to Slip Slip Slippin’ In. Smokin’n’ Burnin’ sounds like Carl Perkins’ Matchbox revisited by the 68 Comeback Special. Not very original, but terribly efficient. Wild Wind is a slight adaptation of Frankie Laine’s Cry of the Wild Goose, a cinematic tune that creates pictures of wide-open spaces in your mind. It would have been a perfect tune for a western.
The next tune, St. Jude, is the album’s weak point. This gospel-tinged number is way too much, both musically and lyrically. Fortunately, To Be Loved, a cover of a Doo-Wop tune by the Pentagons is way better.
The Japanese version features a bonus instrumental titled Jumpin’ at the Capitol with Tony Garnier (Robert Gordon, Bob Dylan) on double bass, Greg Bissonette on drums and Sid Page on violin. It’s a hot Jazz tune with echoes of Gypsy Jazz. 
Also, a two-Cd edition exists with Setzer singing Sinatra’s Luck Be A Lady backed by the Brian Setzer Orchestra on the second CD.


Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot a Tribute to Sun records
Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot a Tribute to Sun records

Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1 A Tribute To Sun Records

Surfdog Records 44068-2 [2005]
Red Hot – Slow Down – Real Wild Child – Rockhouse – Put Your Cat Clothes On – Lonely Weekends – Get It Off Your Mind – Just Because – Glad All Over – Flatfoot Sam – Rock N Roll Ruby – Blue Suede Shoes – Tennessee Zip – Mona Lisa – Peroxide Blonde (In A Hopped Up Model Ford) – Get Rhythm – Stairway To Nowhere – Boppin’ The Blues – Rakin’ & Scrapin’ – Sweet Woman – Flyin’ Saucers Rock N Roll – Lonely Wolf – Red Cadillac & A Black Moustache

Brian Setzer’s  idea for this album is simple, and lays in the title, it’s a tribute to the greatest rockabilly label, the one that started it all: Sun records.
One can wonder what the use of recording such a record, especially with tracks like Blue Suede Shoes, Boppin’ the Blues, Just Because and Red Hot. Setzer claims that he made it to introduce these songs to a new generation. Well, this is a noble cause, so let’s give him credit for that, and we know that he didn’t make it for money, NOBODY makes money with rockabilly.
The recording itself is very good. What you have is a very inspired Brian Setzer, and if you want to compare to another all cover album it’s far better than Stray Cats’ Original Cool. His voice is very strong and it goes without saying that his guitar play is top notch. Though the fans of his flashy style could be deceived, Setzer serves the songs rather than his own glory. He’s perfectly supported by Mark Winchester on double bass and Bernie Dresel on drums (the best rhythm section Setzer ever worked with) and Kevin McKendree adds a solid pumping piano to the ensemble. Even the Jordanaires join in on a couple of songs. They remain very faithful to the original versions which is both a strenghth and a failing. Sure there’s no betrayal, and if you dig the originals you’ll like Setzer’s but in the end this album lacks of originality (which is often the case with tribute albums). At leats it proves that Rockabilly and Rock’n’roll are the kind of music that Setzer plays the best.
One last thing: I still wonder why this album has been recorded in Nashville instead of Sun studio? The liner notes also surprised me when I read Setzer saying “Isn’t it funny how modern rockabilly rarely incorporates acoustic guitar”. Give me a call Brian, I have some records you really should listen.


Brian Setzer - Red Hot & Live
Brian Setzer – Red Hot & Live

Brian Setzer – Red Hot & Live

Surfdog Records  [2007]
Red Hot – This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof – Get It Off Your Mind – Slow Down – Put Your Cat Clothes On – Take A Chance On Love – Broken Down Piece of Junk – Peroxide Blonde (In A Hopped Up Model Ford) – Tennessee Zip – Mini Bar Blues – Runaway Boys – Stray Cat Strut – Rocket Cathedrals – Fishnet Stockings – Rock This Town – Gene & Eddie

To be honest, although I’m a huge Setzer fan I didn’t really know what to expect with this live album recorded in 2006 in Japan with Robbie Chevrier on piano, Ronnie Crutcher on bass and the great Bernie Dresel on drums.
On one hand the idea of an album made for one third of Setzer classics heard many times before on live records (both official and bootlegs), one third from the pleasant but not very original “Tribute to Sun Records” and the remaining third from the highly disappointing “ 13” had nothing to excite me.
On the other hand I was more than curious to hear those classics played with a new arrangement with piano or a second guitar (a configuration not used by Brian Setzer since The Knife Feels Like Justice era 20 years ago) and maybe the tunes from “ 13” would sound better on live than on the studio takes.
And I must admit that once again, Setzer caught me.
This album is nothing less than excellent. It manages to capture perfectly the excitment of the live performance, and it’s amazing how much a piano or a second guitar can change the sound compared to the trio format. The sound is full and pure rock’n’roll. The Rockabilly/Sun tunes are all excellent with sparkling guitar and real rockabilly piano courtesy of Robbie Chevrier. What could sound sterile on record takes here its real dimension, one of the best exemple being “Put Your Cat Clothes On”. The songs from “ 13” sound raw and good when they are played live with this this line-up, especially the glam “Rocket Cathedrals” (do I hear a electric bass on this one?) and the instrumental tour de force “Mini Bar Blues” quoting Les Paul and Jimmie Bryant.
But the real surprise to come from this album is the way they inject new life in those classics that are “Stray Cat Strut”, “Runaway Boys” (one of the best version I heard and believe me I have quite a few bootlegs) and “Rock This Town” which starts like a good ol’ boogie woogie to quickly evolve into a pure rock’n’roll gem.
This album proves (if needed) that when he doesn’t waste his talent in Christmas albums or pre-marketed album for Japanese audience, Setzer can rock like nobody else.


Brian Setzer goes Instru-mental
Brian Setzer goes Instru-mental

Brian Setzer – Setzer Goes Instru-Mental

Surfdog 233291 [2011]
Blue Moon Of Kentucky – Cherokee – Be-Bop-A-Lula – Earl’s Breakdown – Far Noir East – Intermission – Go-Go Godzilla – Lonesome Road – Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown – Hot Love – Pickpocket

Well, fine, Brian Setzer is a damn good picker but how I wish I could have loved this album more. This is not bad but it just sounds like a missed opportunity.

Some songs are just quick reworking of classics that Setzer plays for years and really don’t bring anything to his glory. Seriously who wants to hear another version of Blue Moon Of Kentucky or Be Bop A Lula, even by Brian Setzer? And when he picks his banjo you can expect something new, why not a real bluegrass number with mandolin or dobro or whatever. Instead of that what you have is a clean (in the sense of “sterile”) version of Earl’s Breakdown a song he plays live since 1983. Cherokee is a bit better but reveals the major flaw of the album: its production. The sound is way too clean, totally disembodied and for the most part evokes a cd one can find with guitar methods. And the lack of interaction between the rhythm section and the solist doesn’t help either. Let’s quickly forget Go-Go Godzilla that sounds like a self-parody to concentrate on the few good numbers of the albums. “Far Noir East” seems to have been written for the Brian Setzer Orchestra album “Songs From Lonely Avenue” like a cross between Harlem Nocturne and the Stray Cats little known jewel Jade Idol. Intermission is really jazzy, with a strong Charlie Christian feel and a guest vibraphonist and you regret that there aint no more guests on this album to enhance the final result. For example Lonesome Road is really good too, more or less in the Jimmy Bryant style and it’s too bad that there is not a guest steel guitar on that tune (or why not, Setzer on both as we all know that he plays steel too). And though enjoyable, the remaining songs seems to have been improvised on the spot around a single riff.
It seems that this is not this time that my dream to hear him do an instrumental album with a small jazz combo will come true.


Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot! Live from the Planet
Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot! Live from the Planet

Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot! Live from the Planet

Surfdog 253147 [2012]
Ignition – ’49 Mercury Blues – This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof – Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder) – 8-Track – Slow Down / Folsom Prison Blues – Put Your Cat Clothes On – Blue Moon of Kentucky – Pickpocket – Rumble in Brighton – Runaway Boys – Cry Baby – Great Balls Of Fire – Red Hot – Seven Nights to Rock

Though his recent studio albums vary in quality, Brian Setzer remains one of the top rockabilly acts when on stage. His latest live album, recorded during a tour that took him, two drummers (including Slim Jim Phantom), tow bassists and a pianist from Europe to Australia with Japan and North America in between is another proof, if needed that he’s still the king of modern rockabilly.

The first good surprise comes from the set-list. Setzer has dropped songs like Stray Cat Strut, Gene & Eddie and Rock This Town to make room to rare covers (Great Balls Of Fire, Seven Nights To Rock) or lesser played songs like Cry Baby or 49 Mercury Blues, the latter in a trio version way more powerful than the studio version with the Orchestra. Two songs from his latest release (Instru-Mental) are also included and though I had major reserves about the studio versions, they take all their sense on stage (partially due to the excellent recording work). the other good surprise is simply the performance. You have to go back to Ignition in 2001 to find him in such a good form. The band is tight and Setzer’s playing is inspired and creative and what you hear is a band that works together, not a singer/guitarist and a backing band. This is particularly audible on Slow Down/Folsom Prison Blues on which you can hear the pleasure that Setzer has to trade licks with Kevin McKendree on acoustic guitar. An excellent album from start to finish, more than that a lesson of Rock’n’roll.
Rock This Town, Stray Cat Strut, Sexy & 17 and Fishnet Stockings are available in mp3 format.


Brian Setzer – Gotta Have The Rumble

brian setzer gotta have the rumbleSurfdog 68102 [2021]
Checkered Flag – Smash Up On Highway One – Sytack my Money – The Wrong Side Of the Tracks – Drip Drop – The Cat With 9 Wives – Turn You On, Turn Me On – Rockabilly Riot – Off Your Rocker – One Bad Habit – Rockabilly Banjo

Brian Setzer has a new album out after six years of silence (well, not really, since he reformed and toured with the Stray Cats during this time.)
This new album is produced by Julian Raymond, whose credits include, among others, Cheap Trick and Glenn Campbell. One could fear that having someone coming outside the Rockabilly/Rock’n’Roll circle could not work. But to the contrary, I find that it forces Setzer to reinvent and challenge himself. Also, Setzer didn’t call back his usual crew but chose to play with session men, namely Victor Indrizzo on drums and David Roe Rorick on bass. Rorick toured with Johnny Cash and played bass on John Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, and Billy Joe Shaver’s albums. Indrizzo recorded with Sheryl Crow, Meat Loaf, Depeche Mode and Boyzone (ouch! I can hear some Rockabilly teeth cringe from here).
Against all odds, this eclectic mix works fairly well.
Co-written with Slim Jim Phantom, Checkered Flagg features heavy pounding drums and a menacing riff. Not the most original nor the best of the set, so it’s good to have it as an opener so that you can fully enjoy the rest of the disc. Smash Up On Highway One is far more original, a wild tune, with a riff inspired by Dick Dale. Stack My Money is pure Rockabilly gold and proves if needed that Setzer’s bag of rockabilly licks is bottomless.
The Wrong Side Of the Track is one of the highlights of the album. The melody reminds me of Ghost Radio, Setzer’s collaboration with Joe Strummer. But Setzer totally turns the song into something different by adding strings, and the result wouldn’t be out of place on Songs From Lonely Avenue. Drip Drop is more lighthearted, even though the singer laments about lost love, and when you didn’t expect it, bam!, a stunning Rockabilly solo. The Cat With 9 Wives is pure Swingabilly with Setzer’s guitar all over the place. What happens when you mix Hot Rod music with Bo Diddley’s Who Do You Love? The answer is Turn You On, Turn Me On. Despite its name, Rockabilly Riot is almost Punkabilly. It’s a full-throttle rocking charge. One Bad Habit sounds like an outtake from Ignition, and as usual, Setzer’s solo takes you to places you’re not used to. Both Off Your Rocker and Rockabilly Banjo were penned in collaboration with Dibbs Preston of the Rockats. I was thrilled to see two of my favourite artists collaborate. Off Your Rocker is different from the Rockats song of the same name. It’s a middle paced rocker featuring female backing vocals, and Rockabilly Banjo is, of course, a banjo-led ditty also featuring Paul Franklin on pedal steel guitar.
Setzer delivers a superb album, supported by a solid set of originals and a perfect production. Not for the purists, but they already know that, but more for those curious to see how you can add modern ingredients in a 70-year old genre.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

 

 

Two Timin Three

The Two Timin’ Three – Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

Two Timin Three

Vinylux V0010 [2009]
Black and White Baby – No Thru – I’ll Be True – Love Sick Lullaby – Lonely, Lonely, Lonely – Your New Flame – Since I Found Love – Where Did You Sleep Last Night? – It’s All your Fault – Marie – Got You Figured Out – Just One Wink – Through Foolin’ Around – One Red Rose – No Good Man

The newcomer that impressed me is the Two Timin’ Three!!! Shane, Jeff, and Eric are an excellent rockabilly trio from Austin, Texas, who write and perform in the highest quality.” That’s what Sean Mencher answered in 2006 when asked if a band recently impressed him.
The Two Timin’ Three was founded in Boston, in late 2003, by stand-up bassist Shane Kiel and lead guitarist Jeff Herring. They tried various vocalists before meeting Eric Laufer.
They carried on the long tradition of drummerless Rockabilly, but the Two Timin’ Three were not your run-of-the-mill Rockabilly band. Laufer’s voice was enough to distinguish them, being able to sing with a soft crooning one minute and calm-down menacing the other. Herring’s guitar showed that his influences went far beyond Scotty Moore and Grady Martin, contrary to many aspiring Rockabilly guitar players. One can hear a healthy dose of Jazz and some traces of Chet Atkins and Les Paul in his style. Shane Kiel’s solid slap provided a solid backbone for the band. It’s no wonder that sharing a similar musical background, the band would cross paths with Sean Mencher, who produced this album and Lance LeBeau, who recorded it.
All songs but two (Mencher’s Your New Flame and Cindy Walker’s It’s All Your Fault) are originals. They showed a high level of maturity, with special care to write melodic songs. They mainly played mid-tempos, which allows the singer and the guitar player to ‘breath’ and fully develop their melodies.
Another excellent album followed in 2006 (Payin’ the Price), then the band added Patrick Morrow on drums and became the Two Timin’ Four, thus expanding their musical scope.
Sadly, on September 4, 2008, Eric Laufer was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was only 25.
On a lighter note, I remember the Two Timin’ Three’s performance at The Rockabilly Rave. It was in the afternoon, not on the main stage, but everyone present was blown away by the energy of these three young men.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Go Cat Go


Go Cat Go – Let’s Hear It Once Again for…

Go Cat Go - let's hear it once again for

Vinylux V0002 [1999]
Good Rockin’ Tonite – Little Baby Doll – Please Mama Please – Mystery Train – Flyin’ Saucers Rock n Roll – ‘Til the Cool Cats Cry – Just Because – Can’t Tie Me Down – Blue Days Black Nights – I’ve Got My Eyes on You – Time to Rock – Forever’s Much Too Long – Other Side of Town – Who Was That Cat – Milkcow Blues Boogie – Reconsider Baby – Lonesome Road – Big Train – Ten Ways to Rock – Drugstore Rock n Roll – Hot Rod Man – Stockins and Shoes – Blue Moon of Kentucky – Pink and Black – Tell Me Why

This CD compilation was released shortly after the single. I place Go Cat Go very high in my own Rockabilly pantheon, so you won’t be surprised if I tell you that this CD is an absolute must-have.
One will find two early recordings from March 1990, Forever’s Much Too Long and Time To Rock. Forever is, for me, one of Spears’ best moment. The array of subtleties that you can hear in his voices is simply amazing (I have to confess that I’m always moved and almost bursted into tears when I hear the line ‘Why can’t I be the one you love Instead of just your in-between’. Considering that Freeman had only joined the band three months before the recording, it only adds to the thing’s beauty.
This compilation also contains the 10″ recorded for Willie Lewis in April 1991, the single and three more tracks from the Sun session (Flyin’ Saucers Rock’n’Roll, Til The Cool Cats Cry, Blue Days Black Nights), and twelve live tracks. These songs – mostly Rockabilly classics – demonstrate that Go Cat Go was a fantastic live band. They also confirm that Darren Lee Spears’ songwriting could stand proudly next to classics like Blue Moon of Kentucky, Mystery Train or Drugstore Rock’n’Roll, to name but three.
The booklet contains a complete history of the band written by Wendy LeBeau.


Go Cat Go – Please Mama Please

Go Cat Go - Please Mama Please

Vinylux V0001 [1999]
Please Mama Please / Who Was That Cat


During one of their tour, the band stopped by Sun Records in Memphis and recorded six tracks. These two songs come from that session and were released after the tragic death of Darren Lee Spears in 1993.
Both Please, Mama Please and Who Was That Cat are two instant classics. They contain everything that made Go Cat Go one of the very best Rockabilly bands of the nineties. Only Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Trio and High Noon reached that level. Darren Lee Spears had a fantastic voice. It reminded me of Elvis, not for the tone, but for the extreme facility he had to sing and his wide vocal range. Spears also knew to dose his effects. The hiccups he placed were rare enough to have an impact. He also was a double threat for not only he was a fantastic singer, but he also was a highly talented songwriter. The song he wrote always sounded as if they came straight from the Fifties but remained originals at the same time. Such a talent could have been waste with an average band. Thanks to the Rockabilly gods, it was not the case. Hull was a gifted guitar player that mixed Scotty Moore and Cliff Gallup, and the team formed by Freeman and Lebeau was the perfect Rockabilly rhythm section.


Go Cat Go – S/T

Rock-a-Billy Records R-301-LP [1992] / Vinylux V0004 [1999]
Little Baby Doll – I’ve Got My Eyes on You – Can’t Tie Me Down / Big Train – Other Side of Town – Lonesome Road

Go Cat Go formed in 1989 with Darren Lee Spears on vocals, Bill Hull on guitar, Lance Lebeau on drums and Paul Turley on electric bass, soon replaced by Brian Freeman on slap bass. In March and April 1991, they recorded these six songs, and Willie Lewis released this ten-inch on his Rock-A-Billy label in February 1992 (R-301-LP). The original release (650 copies) had no jacket, and the following year, the band financed the printing of some jackets (designed by Ronnie Joyner) for the remaining 350 copies. It quickly became a collector item, and Vinylux reissued it seven years after its initial release.
Little Baby Doll is the epitome of Rockabilly. Freeman’s propulsive slap bass and LeBeau’s perfect drumming allow Hull to weave a delicate and subtle pattern behind the singer’s voice who equals the best of Elvis and Gene Vincent. All that in two minutes! Likewise, the Other Side Of Town can only be described as rockabilly perfection.
I’ve Got My Eyes On You is a threatening tune with a slight Jack Scott feel. Can’t Tie Me Down is a ballad that allows Spears’ voice to develop all his range and shows echoes of Jerry Lee Lewis in his best vocals moments. Big Train features a harmonica and can be described as Rockabilly Blues. The last song, Lonesome Road, is from the pen of the young Brian Freeman, and one can only regret that he didn’t write more songs.

See also the Flea Bops and our interview Lance and Wendy LeBeau

Check out Vinylux records website.

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