Black Music Matters Festival

Brian Setzer

Wolfgang's Big Night Out – 2007 (Surfdog)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

See it on Amazon

Some artists like to prove their range, hopping over the course of a career from hard-core country to bluegrass to trip-hop. Brian Setzer likes to mine niches until he masters them. Known for reviving rockabilly in the early 1980s with The Stray Cats, Setzer has more recently worked toward melding those '50s guitar sound with big-band and swing music.

But his newest effort takes things a step further - and it wouldn't be an insult to say back. This puts a swing-band lens over some extremely well-known classical songs. So Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King" gets the big-band treatment - and lyrics! - while maintaining at least some of the old warhorse's musical core. The "William Tell Overture" is slowed down a bit and boiled down to horn blasts and guitar runs. And Beethoven's "Fur Elise" is swinging guitar strums and fiddles. This isn't obvious stuff, and it may not work for those who don't like the idea of mixing genres. But it's wild to hear some of the musicianship and determination that went into creating what are in reality hand-crafted mash-ups.

What some hacker might do online, Setzer has done in the studio and you have to admire him for it - even if some of these songs aren't one's cup of tea.