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Published: 2005/07/07
by Katie Mavrich

Rockabilly Riot, vol. 1: A Tribute to Sun Records – Brian Setzer

Surfdog Records
For his latest album, Brian Setzer went to Nashville, took off his zoot suit and donned a pair of blue suede shoes. In Rockabilly Riot, vol. 1: A Tribute to Sun Records, he pays homage to the roots of rock music that began with Elvis Presley’s legendary rockabilly sound in 1954. In addition to Presley, Sun Records is also responsible for the careers of Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bachman Turner Overdrive. The first volume of the tribute is an all-star lineup of tunes — Presley’s ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ Carl Mann’s ‘Mona Lisa,’ and Cash’s ‘Get Rhythm’ are among the 23 tracks featured.
Rockabilly Riot begins with ‘Red Hot,’ originally by Billy Riley. It is immediately apparent that Setzer did his research and had fun with it while his rendition of the song was made in 2005, it (and the rest of Rockabilly Riot) boasts an authentic feel thanks to vintage microphones, reverb via a rusty water cistern, and no digital echoes anywhere on the album. It may not be the first tribute to the record company, but whether he is chanting that his girl is red hot or playing slick guitar licks, Setzer has given Sun Records another accolade to boast about. His voice is just the right amount of raspy to not sound like a complete carbon copy of the artist whose song he is reincarnating.
Original artists add to the appeal of Rockabilly Riot with cameo appearances. On ‘Stairway to Nowhere’ The Jordanaire’s sing the back up harmonies, and on the first ever recording of ‘Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford,’ writer Gene Simmons lends harmony vocals as well. If Presley and Cash were still alive and rocking, one can only imagine what their contributions would be.
Rockabilly Riot rocks indeed. Of course, 23 songs out of the countless number of the genre’s hits is a very small percentage. But perhaps that’s the reason for tagging ‘Vol. 1’ onto the album’s moniker.

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