Album review: Brian Setzer, Rockabilly Riot Vol. One: A Tribute to Sun Records (2006)


By Steve Newton

Brian Setzer has always shown a propensity for being hip, with it, a real cool cat who’s up on the latest scene. That’s why, in the early ’80s, his trio the Stray Cats was at the forefront of the rockabilly revival. And when the swing craze took hold in the mid-’90s, he rounded up the Brian Setzer Orchestra and stayed in vogue by tackling horn-driven big-band favourites of yesteryear.

Swing is dead now, of course, and rockabilly isn’t burning up the charts either. But that didn’t stop Setzer from hauling his black-leather jacket out of mothballs, growing his sideburns a bit, and heading back to the bare bones type of roots-boogie that’s obviously in his blood.

Accompanied by drums, piano, and standup bass, the pompadoured picker races through 23 tracks that pay tribute to the years-roughly 1954 to ’57-when Sun Records released the finest rockabilly music ever put on tape.

Setzer chooses some of the genre’s best-known titles (Carl Perkins’s “Blue Suede Shoes”, Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Real Wild Child”), but also tosses in obscure ditties like Jumpin’ Gene Simmons’s “Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford”. Playing an old Gretsch Duo-Jet through a tiny Supro amp, Setzer deftly re-creates the original Sun Records guitar sound, spicing things up with his own fleet-fingered, reckless style.

The guy is a shockingly underrated player with personality and feel up the ying-yang. I can hardly wait for Volume Two.

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