Guitar Slinger

By: Brian Setzer Orchestra

Type: Big Band Rockabilly

Hot Tracks:
  • Rumble in Brighton
  • Ghost Radio
  • Town Without Pity
  • (The Legend of) Johnny Kool
  • Hey, Louis Prima

I've long felt that Brian Setzer was one of the most underrated guitarists out there, and it's great to see him succeeding with his new big band. This release has more energy than his previous one, starting immediately with a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "The House Is Rockin'." There are only about three songs on this twelve song CD that really allow the listener to take a breather, and they are placed strategically close to the beginning and the end, allowing the middle of the CD to fly high and fast.

The best of the mellow songs is his version of "Town Without Pity," which slows down enough to allow Setzer to show off his Sinatra-like vocals before jumping straight into the high-energy "Rumble in Brighton," which could have been a hit for the Stray Cats if Setzer had pulled it out back then. The high-speed fretwork at the end of the song is nothing short of amazing.

Setzer gets a little help from former Clash member Joe Strummer on two songs, most notably "Ghost Radio," a rockabilly ballad about a stormy trip across the Texas plains and how the ghost of Bob Wills helps to save a bus trapped on a bridge. Setzer is good about acknowledging his influences, and this tribute to the Texas Playboys is his most ambitious reference yet. Later in the album, he pulls off a Chet Atkins/Jerry Reed style guitar break in "Hey, Louis Prima" as another tip of the hat.

The last song on the album, "Sammy Davis City," (again penned with the help of Strummer) is a little strange. It is worthwhile, though for the chance to hear how Setzer can make an acoustic guitar sing. He shows his knowledge of chord movement clearly in this slow, sparse arrangement and leaves us wondering why the CD is over already.

There really is not a weak track on this album. People who enjoyed the mellow ballads of his first outing with the orchestra may be a little surprised at the wake up call this album gives, but I think they will adjust. There's too much good music not to!

Rating (out of a possible five):

 

 

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