Jack Smith and the Rockabilly Planet

Cruel Red – 2000 (Run Wild)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

CDs by Jack Smith and the Rockabilly Planet

While Jack Smith's last rockabilly album - a 1989 self-titled release on Flying Fish - was as tied to traditionalism as anything else released around that time, this marks a huge step forward for Smith. And the long layoff from recording seems to have done Smith a lot of good, in fact, allowing him to jettison a lot of rockabilly's cartoony baggage in the process. The result is contemporary rockabilly for adults, and deserving of a place alongside the best work of The Blasters and Chris Isaak.

Kicking off with the title track, a minor key rocker that wouldn't sound out of place on Isaak's pissed-off masterpiece "Forever Blue," Smith and his band are in fine form throughout, particularly the excellent guitar work of Jerry Miller and Bill Coover. While the occasional nods to RCA-era Elvis ("Don't Make This Harder") and early Gene Vincent (a cover of Eddie Zack's "I'm Gonna Roll and Rock") are evident, more often than not he's pursuing his own agenda, not concerned with the emphasis on "authenticity" (rockabilly's own version of PC thuggery) that's paralyzed other bands over the past 10 years.

It's safe to say that this is Smith's best yet; recorded in a day like so much of the best records in the genre, and tempered by years of playing in honky-tonks. (Run Wild, PO Box 123, Lebanon, NJ 08833)