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Starlight Drifters

Thirteen To Go – 2001 (Rollin' Rock)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Starlight Drifters

The Starlight Drifters latest attempts a greater stylistic span than anything done on Rollin' Rock since the days when Johnny Legend and Ray Campi were on the label.

Oh sure, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based quartet offers plenty of top-notch bass-slappin' rockabilly originals ("Cold Fish") and deftly reinvented cover tunes (Conway Twitty's "Long Black Train," Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain"), all replete with hiccuping vocals and twangin' tremelo guitar runs. What makes this band's third album refreshingly different is their nod to the other sounds that informed the rockabilly revolution. Bill Alton's tender vocals on '50's styled r&b ballads ("We Can Make It" and Elvis' "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You") are simultaneously soulful and playful. Multi-instrumental threat Chris Casello imbue both rockers ("Long Goner") and Western swing shuffles ("I'm Not The Guy") with the most manic Hawaiian steel guitar runs this side of Junior Brown. Moreover, the use of background vocals multi-voiced rockers ("Pretty Little Ring") acknowledge the pop side of rockabilly in a way no Ron Weiser production ever has before.

Creative, energetic, and diverse, this is the Drifters' most entertaining work to date.