Brian Setzer

August 19, 2005

When it comes to hep-cat guitar—that twangy mix of R&B, blues, and hillbilly music drenched with s-s-shakin’-all-over echo and quivering Bigsby vibrato—no one tops Brian Setzer. If you dig Jeff Beck’s Crazy Legs (the Brit’s fabulous 1993 tribute to Gene Vincent and his fireball lead guitarist, Cliff Gallup), you’ll flip your wig over Rockabilly Riot. In this loose, spirited set, Setzer pays homage to Sun Records and the 6-string pioneers who cut tracks in the Memphis studio between 1954 and 1957. Armed with an old Gretsch Duo-Jet, a tape echo unit, and a Supro combo, he tears through 23 of his favorite rockabilly anthems (including such classics as “Red Hot,” “Rock ’N’ Roll Ruby,” and “Blue Suede Shoes”). The rhythm section sounds dead-on authentic—kudos to drummer Bernie Dresel for transcribing and playing all the original drum parts on a period-correct kit—and the vintage mics and tube gear keep the tones warm. Without sounding derivative, Setzer revisits the Sun guitarists’ groundbreaking riffs, lines, and licks, bringing a wild mix of tritone double-stops, triplet pull-offs, restless augmented chords, and chugging bass runs to center stage. Go cat, go. Surfdog.

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