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CD Reviews: Review of Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1: A Tribute to Sun Records by Brian Setzer
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Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Brian Setzer: Rockabilly Riot Volume 1: A Tribute to Sun Records (Surfdog 2005)

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Brian Setzer’s entire career has been a nod and a wink to the old time rock and roll artists that came before him. Whether working in the Stray Cats, ripping it out with his big band Orchestra, or creating solo works, Setzer is old, old school. On his current release, Rockabilly Riot Volume I: A Tribute to Sun Records, he covers a selection of songs created between 1954-1957 for the legendary label. It is a fabulous 59 minute 53 second, 23 track masterpiece of music that deserves more attention than it will likely get.

Are you looking for feedback guitar or synthesizers galore? Look elsewhere, boys and girls, because this is about voice, guitar, stand up bass, drums and some excellent piano. Occasionally a saxophone can be heard, but this is rock and roll in its simplest and purest form. In the liner notes, Setzer explains the detail that he and the musicians undertook to get the sound and arrangements just right:

“My drummer, Bernie Dresel, charted out all the original drum parts and played them exactly like the originals.”

The musicianship is outstanding, and the normally kinetic and gifted Setzer seems to be more restrained on his guitar solos, which fit the arrangements perfectly. The piano playing of Kevin McKendree is absolutely fantastic and provides the swing that the tunes need. Setzer’s voice is in fine form and his delivery indicates that he was having the time of his life recording this gem.

Every track on Rockabilly Riot is under three minutes, except the Johnny Cash penned “Rock and Roll Ruby” and the closing track, “Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache,” which both run just over three. “Lonely Weekends,” which features the background vocals of Elvis’s Jordanaires, is the best track on an album of great ones.  

~R. David Smola 


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