For the past 30 years or so, Brian Setzer has made a career out of retooling rockabilly, an essential form of rock ‘n’ roll that preceded the arrival of the British invasion and the modern rock era. Setzer’s first band, the Stray Cats, helped bring overdue recognition to that once antiquated genre, and for the most part, he’s been retracing that particular regimen ever since.
Now, after complementing his rockabilly efforts with assorted forays into big band and swing, Setzer returns to the primal sounds of his early years. Consequently, Rockabilly Riot delivers all the title promises, twelve tracks flush with the energy and exuberance inherent in that rollicking retro approach. Indeed, “Let’s Shake” brings to mind the wild romps of Jerry Lee Lewis, while “What’s Her Name??” reconstructs Eddie Cochran’s signature set-up. Setzer stays true to form throughout, whether replicating some slaphappy bass in “Rockabilly Blues” or propelling the steady clip of “Nothing Is A Sure Thing.” His smooth croon adds to the authenticity, a mark of the confidence and assurance he’s maintained throughout his career.
That said, Setzer seems just as determined to mine the more cartoonish elements associated with any rockabilly revival, as evidenced by titles like “I Should’a Had a V-8” and “Cock-a doodle Don’t.” No worry though; a certain frivolity is generally implied with projects like this. It’s best then to simply listen and enjoy—this Riot rarely goes wrong.
– Lee Zimmerman