Rockabilly Riot

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The
"King of the Cats"
at it again: the greatest
all around guitar player ever, Brian Setzer, is set for the U.S.
release of his latest project, Rockabilly
Riot, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Sun Records
on July 26.

This
23-song disc pays tribute to some well known and virtually unknown
rockabilly songs from the library of Memphis' iconic Sun
Records
. What is rockabilly? Well Setzer describes rockabilly
in the liner notes:

"…the
musical bastard of rhythm and blues, hillbilly, country, gospel,
and maybe even a little jazz sung by wild-eyed
southern white boys
with too much time and too little
money just lookin’ for trouble."

Throughout
his career as frontman for the Stray
Cats
, the Brian
Setzer Orchestra
, and various solo projects, Setzer never looked
at rockabilly as being frozen in time; rockabilly was a living musical
form that he merely wanted to add to and popularize.
So while Setzer has done covers of rockabilly classics before, mostly
by Gene
Vincent
and Eddie
Cochran
, the approach was to treat the songs as old '31 Fords
in need of being hot-rodded for the modern ear. The recording of
"Rockabilly Riot" represents a departure for Setzer.

Traveling
to Nashville to record this tribute with his regular drummer, Bernie
Dresel
, bass fiddle player Mark
Winchester
, and rockabilly pianist, Kevin
McKendree
, Setzer used recording techniques from the ’50s:
vintage microphones, a rusty old water cistern for reverb, and no
digital echoes
to recreate the sound of the originals, an approach more akin to
restoring a neglected ’55 Chevy to straight stock. Dresel also
masterfully captures the elusive single-cymbal drumming style of
the time.

The
23 songs include some well-known songs like Carl
Perkins'
"Blue Suede Shoes" but also include the never-before-recorded,
"Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford" written by
Gene Simmons (not the KISS guy). Another obscure gem is "Put
Your Cat Clothes On," another Carl Perkins recording (never
released by Sun) with Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano. Perkins and
Lewis swap dueling guitar/piano solos in the original; Setzer and
McKendree will no doubt recreate this epic duel.

Fortunately,
the U.S. release on July 26 of "Riot" will be in time
for some summertime enjoyment stateside, while in Europe it's already
available. In fact Setzer is currently touring Europe to sold-out
shows (rockabilly remains one of the American things still popular
there) with his ad hoc combo, the "Nashvillians." So grab
a copy "Rockabilly Riot" and have cool drink on the hammock,
go for a cruise or get up and dance around the living room.

July
22, 2005

Greg
Davis [send him mail]
plays guitar and sings original rockers at open mics in the Phoenix
area. He's pictured with his homemade particleboard rockabilly guitar,
the "Hudson Super Six."

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