CD Review of Black Cat Bone by Lee Rocker
Recommended if you like
Brian Setzer, Stray Cats, Elvis Presley
Label
Alligator
Lee Rocker: Black Cat Bone

Reviewed by R. David Smola

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A
s one of the founding members of the Stray Cats, Lee Rocker is inevitably going to be compared to Brian Setzer when solo material is being considered. Setzer is the benchmark for the genre; he was the face, the guitar, the voice and the writer of most of the Cats’ material, and has carved out one heck of a solo career. Don’t discount Rocker’s abilities, nor work, simply because he is not as high profile. Rocker has had the opportunity to work with some great folks, like Carl Perkins, Ringo Starr and ex-Elvis guitarist Scottie Moore. Phantom, Rocker and Slick, a three piece he helped form with his Stray Cats compadre Slim Jim Phantom and Bowie guitar slinger Earl Slick, put out two pretty cool but difficult to find records in the mid ‘80s.

Black Cat Bone is one incredibly pleasant album. The songs are catchy and hummable. Rocker’s time with Scottie Moore must have affected this record, because several tracks sound as if the King could have recorded them if he were still around. The background vocals on almost every track sound as if they are performed by the Jordanaires. Rocker’s voice, smooth as Tennessee whiskey, is perfect for the material. He may not have the pipes of Elvis nor the crooning skills of Setzer, but he has the chops to pull off this material with style and ease. “One More Night,” which could have been an Elvis song, is a particularly fun little tune about a spurned lover longing for just one more evening of intimate contact under the clearly lit sky of a bright moon. On “Lost Highway,” Rocker is channeling the King on a tune about wayward habits and impending doom. 

The Setzer/Stray Cat stuff is all about the guitar virtuosity of Setzer riffing away within the constraints of the genre. Rocker is all about the groove. The band is perfectly in synch, allowing the song to be the star. The guitar playing is efficient and restrained. Rocker certainly borrows from his Cats days in songs like “Rebel” (which is reminiscent of “Cross of Love” from 1994’s Choo Choo Hot Fish) and “Black Cat Bone,” a “Stray Cat Strut”-sounding ditty.

Rocker sounds comfortable, his band is tight and the material is hooky. Black Cat Bone gives the rockabilly fan plenty to chew.

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