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Brian Setzer

Rockabilly Riot, Vol. One: A Tribute to Sun Records – 2005 (Surfdog)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Brian Setzer

Do you know who Jack Earls is? Tommy Blake? Ernie Barton? Well, Brian Setzer does, and his knowledge of obscure rockabillies is what drives this deftly paced 23-song collection.

Backed by Kevin McKendree, a key-ripping disciple of Jerry Lee Lewis, drummer Bernie Dressel and bass-slapper Mark Winchester, Setzer doesn't exactly recreate the fabled Sun Sound. Instead he uses the label's songs and style as genre touchstones for his inspired, sway-bar accented guitar technique and Eddie Cochran-influenced vocal raves. This is especially apparent on covers of Billy Lee Riley's "Red Hot," Ray Harris's "Lonely Wolf" and Carl Perkins' "Put Your Cat Clothes On."

Setzer and crew rock tough through renditions of Warren Smith's "Rock'n'Roll Ruby" and Gene Simmons' "Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford." However, the offbeat numbers prove to be the catchiest.

The former Stray Cat adds psychobilly guitar to Tommy Blake's doo-wop-drenched "Flat Foot Sam." Dean Beard's sax-led r&b raver "Rakin'& Scrapin'" and a bluesy take on Charlie Rich's "Lonely Weekends," are groove-filled singles waiting to happen. Finally, Kenny Parchman's "Tennessee Zip" and "Get it Off of Your Mind," resonate with danceable hillbilly swing.

Setzer's work here may not be entirely original, but it is very well done.