RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot! All Original
Surfdog Records

Rating: A+

The rock era has produced some amazing artists, but few of them truly deserve to be called unique. Brian Setzer is one artist who absolutely deserves the distinction. His current release, Rockabilly Riot! All Original is in a class by itself. There is nothing like it out there, and it’s brilliant. Man, this is a fun album! I challenge anyone to listen to it and not have a smile on their face.

It would be easy to compare Rockabilly Riot! All Original to the music of the 1950’s. But frankly, the 1950’s could’ve only wished they were this cool. Setzer’s rockabilly style may be firmly rooted in 50’s rock ‘n’ roll with some early country music overtones, but he takes it to places they could never go back then. The album sounds like it was recorded live in the greatest live music venue ever. He masterfully mixes vintage gear with current technology to produce breathtaking guitar tones that further show off his stunning guitar virtuosity. He runs his ‘59 Gretsch 6120 guitar with a Roland Space Echo through a ’63 Fender Bassman amp. No pedals, no overdubbing, and single take solos; can it really be that simple? Yes, provided you’re Brian Setzer.

The songwriting is so strong that it all sounds easy. Setzer primarily utilizes basic chord progressions, tried and true running bass line complements, and standard verse and chorus song structures. But he also manages to introduce that certain magic that sets it far apart from everything else. It’s as though we haven’t heard this type of music a thousand times before and are just now hearing it for the first time. It takes brilliance to take an instantly recognized style and make it sound as fresh and unique as a brand new genre of music. Setzer has that brilliance, and he seems to revel in it on this album.

Other than one or two “greatest hits” collections of the early rock ‘n’ roll era, I don’t have any albums of the genre. It just doesn’t do much for me. But when I listen to Rockabilly Riot! All Original I get a small taste of what it must have been like to have been a big-eyed teenager way back when who walked into some bright roadside tent off the beaten path on a steamy night in the South to hear a star musician come in and light the place up with that “threat to innocence” devil’s music. The fire is so alive in these tracks it’s easy to conjure up a mood, a time and a place in a happier, more innocent past - whether it really existed or not. Whether it’s the high energy “Rockabilly Blues”, the nostalgic “Vinyl Records”, or the longing for lost love “Blue Lights, Big City”, the songs on this album will keep you anticipating every next note. One thing is certain, Rockabilly Riot! All Original will stay on my primary playlist for quite some time.

Track Listing:

  1. Let’s Shake
  2. Rockabilly Blues
  3. Vinyl Records
  4. Lemme Slide
  5. Nothing Is A Sure Thing
  6. What’s Her Name
  7. Calamity Jane
  8. The Girl With The Blues In Her Eyes
  9. Stiletto Cool
  10. 1 Should’a Had A V-8
  11. Blue Lights, Big City
  12. Cock-a-doodle Don’t

By Roy Rahl