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Savage Beat

Frantic Rockers

Rhythm Bomb

What begins, surprisingly, in a bit of a whimper ends up resembling something akin to the name Frantic Rockers and their ‘Savage Beat’. Having not had the pleasure of witnessing Frantic Rockers in a live scenario, one suspects that their brand of wild rock ‘n’ roll, with a heavy dose of the blues, is a force to be reckoned with when up on stage. In terms of their current issue out on Rhythm Bomb Records, the opening trio of ‘I Wanna Boogie’, ‘Hoodoman Blues’ and ‘Rolling Stone’ remain a bit tepid in the sound department and give the impression of a band warming up before all cylinders are fully firing. Once that torch paper is lit, however, then some serious rockin’ action begins and starting with use of the harmonica during ‘Crying and Pleading’, which is supported by vocalist Jesse’s persuasive delivery. With the harmonica warming up during the former song, it is red hot by the time it gets to the absolutely flyin’ ‘All Through The Night’, with Jesse getting in to his stride and keeping tabs with the scorchin’ rhythm. The Frantic Rockers is definitely a tight unit musically, but they also possess an important ingredient in vocalist Jesse as this frontman has the ability to possess songs with a raw and domineering voice that steers such examples as ‘Rumours’ and ‘Howling’, but also add a touch of variety by breaking into spoken word passages during opener, ‘I Wanna Boogie’. Despite the earlier misgivings, Frantic Rockers ‘Savage Beat’ eventually does exactly what it states on the tin, and that is deliver an exhilarating ride of wild and savage bluesy rock ‘n’ roll.


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Let’s Go Sparkin’ With…

The SideWynders

Rhythm Bomb

An appropriate album title for The Sidewynders with ‘Let’s Go Sparkin’ With…’ as there is a real energy fizzing between the grooves of the majority of songs, but also there is much to get incensed about judging by the angst that relationships can (sometimes) bring and reflected here. Beginning with the sprightly sounding ‘Lyin’ Baby’ with added steel strings, the contents of this song reveals a different tale, however, and one of a relationship that went sour and now replaced with resentment as indicated by the parting shot, “I hope that you live life with regret, with my heart you are in debt, because baby – baby what you done to me is lowdown dirty crime”. This is why The Sidewynders matter so much because they really do care about their feelings and the state of their music which, by the way, is as every bit skilled as the ideas and personal reflections scribbled here. Unfortunately, for these cool cats, the relationship stakes fail to see an improvement as far as luck goes, but it all makes for compelling listening which, combined with the dextrous guitar and light rhythm of ‘Fancy Free’ and followed by the rockabilly and severely broken heart of ‘No Shame’, The Sidewynders know something about turning misery into sheer delight. There is a touch of the Bill Haley’s with the percussion entrance of ‘Dry Run’, which proceeds with a similar rhythm to ‘Jailhouse Rock’, and then catching a second wind with the breezy tempo of ‘Closer & Closer’ that showcases some fine vocals. Just before last orders is called though, The Sidewynders up the ante further, as far as any competition is concerned,  by revealing the creative delight that is ‘She’s Got It Made’, taking its inspiration from big band and swing and offering superb interchanging and dual vocals that makes our life definitely complete!


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Lew Phillips

Lew Phillips

Rhythm Bomb

‘Fallin’ In Love Is Easy’ is the introduction to Lew Phillips eponymously titled album on Rhythm Bomb Records, but it is also the first introduction to the second coming of the late and supremely great legend that was Buddy Holly. No doubt Lew Phillips is either experiencing one of two emotions and that is extreme gratitude with being compared to one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll music, or such a comparison is beginning to grate after being informed umpteen times, “Wow! You sound like…” There is simply no escaping the fact though, when hearing Lew Phillips for the first time it will leave you breathless, momentarily, before the senses begin to react once more and the next step requires a quick look at the album cover just to make sure you followed the instructions correctly when inserting or setting down the correct album. Despite such a glaring comparison, there is definite genius at work here as all of the compositions are originals and penned by Lew Phillips himself, but it is the manner in which he moulds a number of them as if providing his interpretation of various Buddy Holly songs. For example, ‘Marie-Lou’ is Lew Phillips homage to ‘Peggy Sue’, complete with one or two vocal hiccups that really come to the surface during the excellent ‘Be My Baby’ and is probably the closest replica of Buddy Holly vocally coming through the speakers along with the equally infectious ‘Tell Me Why’. For our money though, the doo-wop backing and Lew Phillips pining over the memory that was ‘Laurie-Anne’ is the main source of treasure among many wonderful delights. Lew Phillips self-titled record will leave you speechless for a number of reasons, with one openly obvious one.


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The Other Side Of Bakersfield, Vol. 2

Various Artists

Bear Family

The evolution of rockabilly and rockin’ sounds continues by way of Bakersfield with Bear Family’s second chapter titled, ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’. With in-depth liner notes and super rare photos regarding these particular artists of the 1950s and 60s and the record labels involved,  the usual care and attention from Bear Family is applied to the entire package as volume two of the Boppers and Rockers from Nashville West is on equal par with its predecessor. For example, the same quality and breadth of creativity is found throughout ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield Vol. 2’, but where this differs slightly is the evolving sound of the musicians involved, edging closer to a fuller-sounding rockabilly description, to cite one example, that is beefed up and tighter in its execution. Particular delights of this second instalment include the ever reliable Ferlin Husky with ‘I Feel Better All Over’; the ballad-esque ‘Teenage Tears’ from Cliff Crofford; the wonderful off-kilter delivery and in line with its narrative of Corky Jones’ (Buck Owens) ‘Rhythm and Booze’ and George Weston’s rockin’ ‘Hey Little Car Hop’. Special mention goes to the sublime ‘Can’t Go On’ with a vocal to melt the sternest of hearts that leaves one to ponder why the name Dallas Frazier was not exalted to greater heights despite achieving success as a songwriter for a host of artists. A superb second volume, ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’ is worthy of high praise indeed.


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The Other Side Of Bakersfield, Vol. 1

Various Artists

Bear Family

Nothing but a safe pair of hands, Bear Family Records bring sweet, pleasurable relief with a new two-part series that focuses on ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’. The first volume of Boppers and Rockers from Nashville West details a succession of artists from the 1950s and 60s from the city of Bakersfield eager to experiment with the wilder sound that was emerging at a quickening pace with rockabilly and later rock ‘n’ roll. With an abundance of independent record labels able to provide (temporary) homes for those deemed worthy enough, the more familiar names of Buck Owens (aka Corky Jones on one particular number), Tommy Collins, Merle Haggard et al are present, but also much sought after originals with the endearingly named Custer Bottoms, for example, with his ‘Stood Up Blues’ that possesses a wonderful natural quality mainly expressed through Custer’s ‘hick’ delivery  rendering the abject misery of the central figure via the opposite sex utterly convincing. Cliff Crofford’s prospects appear equally bleak with ‘There Ain’t Nothin’ Happenin To Me’ that sounds like it’s made up of a very primitive rock ‘n’ roll rhythm. Johnny Taylor certainly adopts a similar methodology with his more up-tempo version of the (still) primitive rockin’ beats by way of the superb ‘Mixed Up Rhythm & Blues’, only for Jimmy Thomason (‘Now Hear This’) and Glen Ayres – Red Simpson (‘Sweet Love’) to shake things up further with some rhythm and blues and then followed by a concoction of teen rock and boogie. The sheer breadth of styles is astounding not to mention the abundance of creativity – Joe Hall & The Corvettes ‘Bongo Beating Beatnik’ a prime example – that makes this first volume ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’ a must have item.


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Rockabilly Roads 4

Various Artists

Playground Music

Fourth instalment in the Rockabilly Roads series that sees no let-up in terms of quality control with a plethora of modern-day rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll artists touting their own creative writings rather than adding a fresh spin on an old cover. The ‘jungle’ theme given to this fourth Rockabilly Roads volume is more about the red-hot electricity coursing through more or less each and every track rather than anything specific coming out of the wilderness. First indication of such a scorching atmosphere comes by way of Mike Barbwire & The Blue Ocean Orchestra with their ‘El Sótano Calling (S.O.S ROCKN’ ROLL), which is an instrumental with a Latin flavour coupled with a stinging guitar, monstrous sax and surprising turn of events with a brief yet wondrous string section midway that sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the competition to follow. After such a magnificent start, Swedish rockers and regulars to the Rockabilly Roads series, John Lindberg Trio do not let the side down by way of their usual high standards of consistently good rock ‘n’ roll with knowing pop sensibilities that is ‘Hit Me’. Where John Lindberg Trio add a modern gloss to the rockin’ revival, Ruby Ann’s ‘You Gotta Pay’ and subsequent Honeyboy Slim & the Bad Habits ‘Screamin’ Mimi Jeanie’ really drum up a sense of nostalgia with authentic takes on a 50s sound; the former a mid-tempo setter that is commanded by Ms Ann’s compelling vocal, whereas the latter is a full-blooded rocker and reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis. It remains this very balancing act between replicating an inch perfect rockin’ 50s period sound, and one that stems from the same origins but with various additional elements providing a more up-to-date feel (20th Flight Rockers, The Caezars, Reverend Horton Heat), which is why this rockabilly series truly works.


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Desperate Rock N Roll Volume Three

Various Artists

Flame

It might be time for the delinquents gracing the front cover of ‘Desperate ‘Rock N Roll Volume Three’ to feel nothing but shame for their collective misdemeanours, but there is no sense of shame when it comes to the magnificent array of rock ‘n’ roll obscurities and near misses gracing the contents of this latest compilation on the Flame imprint. From the outset, the third instalment in the ‘Desperate R N R’ series reveals a series of winning songs, the equivalent in musical terms to a winning lottery ticket with more than a few bonus balls, that should appease even the harshest of critics. Evidence of such lofty praise is instantaneous with Baby Huey & the Baby Sitters ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ which accelerates at considerable speed on the back of splendid vocals and thrusting guitars that brings together rhythm & blues with more than a hint of garage rock. Such intensity is maintained with Steve Alaimo & the Red Coats’ ‘She’s My Baby’ only it’s more of a deep brooding number with Alaimo’s vocal sinking considerable depths and adding to the song’s forceful appeal. There are a few primitive numbers scattered throughout with Clyde Arnold & the Sharps ‘I’ve Got A Baby’ sounding as if put together on a real shoestring budget and a reminder of the still evolving rock ‘n’ roll genre whereas the Floyd Dakil Combo’s ‘Dance, Franny, Dance’ is more the complete package due to arriving later and clearly to its advantage, as it is a sheer delight with its recognisable mid-60s tone complete with handclaps. The country twang that accompanies Willie .B. and his ‘Bad Mouthin’ slows the tempo but equally remains infectious and a worthy inclusion, as are the two rockabilly numbers from Don Feger who, according to the enclosed booklet, remains something of an enigma due to a dearth of information. If you like frantic rock ‘n’ roll with more than its fair share of obscurities spanning from the 50s to the 60s, then ‘Desperate Rock N Roll Volume Three’ is a must have compilation.


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Jump into The Midnight Ball!

Dale Rocka and the Volcanoes

Rhythm Bomb

The mood of this first ever album release by Dale Rocka and the Volcanoes is definitely one of celebratory, as suggested by its title and visually explicit by the ultra-cool artwork gracing its exterior. At the heart of the album’s rockin’ contents, however, is some real cool cats who remain hell-bent on letting their hair down after a fifteen year stretch that has seen countless live performances and various recordings, but never as a four piece until now. So without further ado, ‘Jump into The Midnight Ball!’ is all you can do because its rockabilly rhythms are simply irresistible and will have you moving those limbs until the early hours, such is the relentless pace. The preparation for the festivities at hand starts appropriately with ‘The Midnight Ball’, which has a touch of Bill Haley & His Comets about it, and serves as the ideal ‘warm up’ for what’s to follow. Dale Rocka – real name Massimo Rocka who is responsible for the majority of the songwriting – and his explosive cohorts reveal their wares without any hesitation during standout track ‘Bad Blood’ with its gritty guitars sounding borderline garage rock and Dale’s vocal reminiscent of Darrel Higham on occasions. There is a real glint in the eye with the superbly titled ‘Mama Bring Back (My Blue Suede Shoes)’ that contains a subtle humour, despite being down in the deep end, and reveals the band’s creativity to a large extent, especially when it comes to failing to namedrop the song’s title at every opportunity, which is a refreshing addition. ‘Rag Mop’ is nimble on its feet with a frantic yet light(ish) sounding rhythm and skilful guitar that is brought to the fore. Taking the festivities down a notch, yet remaining consistently compelling with its grungy guitar sound and distortion in the vocal, is the whipping into shape demands of ‘That’s Why I Tell You’. Such advice is soon forgotten, however, once the inventiveness of ‘Remember Last Night’, with its amusing touch of giving the impression of an ‘extra voice’ trying desperately to recollect the morning after the night before, is played out to a brisk tempo and shuffling rhythm. Dale Rocka and the Volcanoes have just had one hell of a party with ‘Jump into The Midnight Ball!’, the good news however, is that this particular midnight ball is open and available to all, and it is one that will not let you down.


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Roots Man

Levi Dexter

Dextone Records / Rhythm Bomb

Levi Dexter was last seen bringing the house down at Camber Sands to a manic tempo courtesy of his rhythm section that had this legendary singer weaving and boppin’ til almost the wee small hours. The inclusion of Levi Dexter as one of the main attractions at the Rockabilly Rave last year was an inspired decision, as was Rhythm Bomb Records to add the rockabilly Hall of Famer to their roster. Mustering a collection of rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll numbers with a light smattering of original compositions penned by the man himself, Levi Dexter’s ‘Roots Man’ is an enjoyable ride and one that is blessed with impeccable taste. Kicking off with the title song ‘Roots Man’, Levi reveals his affection for the very scene that inspired his own musings but in the same instance pays homage to a number of its pioneers ranging from Elvis Presley to Chuck Berry. Larry Donn’s ‘Honey Bun’ spins out at considerable pace, reviving memories of the aforesaid grand live performance, before slowing immeasurably and, in the process, following the correct ‘How to…’ manual when it comes to reconstructing a song as expertly shown with the Cochran/Capehart composition ‘Completely Sweet’. This is where Levi Dexter appears to thrive, however, as further covers consisting of a rockin’ version of Jack Guthrie’s ‘Oakie Boogie’, to a modern yet authentic sounding choice via Bob Butfoy’s ‘The Man Who Counts’ and quite literal translation, considering the jittery tempo, of Hank Penny’s ‘Hadacillin Boogie’ all display a willingness to reach for the creative button rather than simply going through the motions of producing an exact replica of what has gone before. That is not to say that Levi’s own material is not without merit because ‘Boppin’ Bernie’ is easily at home with the record hops of the 50s due to its faithful delivery, but there is further cause for celebration with the darkly humorous ‘Cannibal Party’ that is completely unexpected and a welcome addition due to stepping outside of the usual obsessions concerning girls and cars. Overall, ‘Roots Man’ is a terrific tribute to several of the original records of the 50s rockin’ scene that will appeal to those who prefer a mainly covers album, but also provide the perfect tonic for those seeking a bit more creativity.


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Rockabilly Roads III

Various Artists

Playground Music

Bringing things up-to-date is the latest compilation in the ‘Rockabilly Roads’ series that packs a persuasive punch with a whole line of neo-rockabilly artists from around the globe offering a modern sheen on the rockabilly genre with nearly all original material. Many of the artists present will be familiar to those in the know, with such examples as Big Sandy & his Fly-Rite Boys, John Lindberg Trio, Pep Torres and Mike Bell & The Belltones. With a selection of eighteen tracks to whet the appetite, ‘Rockabilly Roads III’ succeeds in its concept as each and every band, while sourcing their inspirations from the fifties era, sounds current. Evidence of this modern spin on the rockabilly genre comes by way of Fanny Mae & The Dynamite Believers with their infectious ‘Hipshakin’, that sees the band strutting their wares across the chequered flooring of the local diner, only the year is now rather than the late fifties. Boz Boorer pops up with a burly cover version of ‘Cast Iron Arm’ whereas the domineering vocal and guitar of The Caezars excellent ‘Heartache Overload’ claims first prize. The unfortunately named Fatboy garners serious attention with its Roy Orbison meets Chris Isaak vocal delivery during ‘Walk Your Way’, only to be rivalled in the quality stakes by a compelling duet by way of The Hillbilly Moon Explosion with ‘My Love For Evermore’. Pick of the bunch, however, is the hard-edged rocker that is ‘Ride My Bike’ courtesy of The Troubled Three, closely pursued by a recurring theme involving motorcycles with the modern classic that is ‘The Norton Spirit’ by the mighty Blue Cats. At last, a compilation for those supporters genuinely interested in the current wave of rockabilly bands hell-bent on keeping the original rockabilly spirit alive but with a modern twist as ‘Rockabilly Roads III’ successfully displays.

 


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Glenville Railroad Tracks (single)

Bill Fadden & the Rhythmbusters

Migraine Records

If you like a heavy dose of authenticity with your rockabilly, then next stop along the Glenville railway line is as good as any to park your wares and take in the sounds of latest single from Bill Fadden & the Rhythmbusters with ‘Glenville Railroad Tracks’. Issued as a limited edition 45 vinyl, and more a double A-side considering the supreme quality of the title track and flipside ‘The Payback’, ‘Glenville Railroad Tracks’ finds Bill Fadden & his boys in majestic form by creating a real sense of a bygone era that has managed to find itself in the present still moving and shaking to an undeniably infectious 50s rockabilly rhythm. It’s the attention to detail given to ‘Glenville Railroad Tracks’ that also impresses as it hurtles into your senses under a cloud of smoke, complete with genuine steam engine whistle, before offloading a series of narratives all rolled in to one with varying degrees of complexities of the relationship kind. More coal is added to the fire with the previously mentioned ‘The Payback’ that really stokes up a serious momentum with its pressing rhythm and Bill Fadden sounding like a man with a score to settle, “You’ve been playing untrue and now the jokes on you, Yeah that’s a payback baby”. If this is the sound of things to come with Bill Fadden & the Rhythmbusters, then the suitcase is packed and ready waiting with much anticipation for the next pickup from Glenville Railroad.


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Just Honky Tonkin Around!

Rhythm River Trio

Rhythm Bomb

One of the definite highlights at last year’s Rockabilly Rave, the Rhythm River Trio return with the playfully titled ‘Just Honky Tonkin Around!’ With the proud announcement of ‘Twelve smashing tracks in true mono’ adorning the sleeve, the Rhythm River Trio certainly live up to this declaration by offering a factually brief set of songs that actually feels much longer, which is a compliment due to the amount of creativity crammed into the shortest of time spaces. In addition to the twelve songs, the Trio has managed to capture a truly authentic ambience as one feels transported to a fifties setting expertly handled by Sugar Rays Vintage Recording Studio. Flexing their talents over a soundscape incorporating elements of country with, of course, a flurry of rockabilly, the Rhythm River Trio turn on the style from the off with the marvellous ‘Honky Tonkin Around’, compellingly told by lead vocalist David Short and with the song picking up an extra yard with some wonderful guitar halfway through. ‘Drinkin Wine Spo-dee-o-dee’ and ‘Oakie Boogie’ have certainly paid their dues here, as elements from both songs are present before quietly tiptoeing to the cover of ‘Teardrops From My Eyes’ and, more notably, during the band’s self-penned ‘Monday Mornin’ that is full of vigour despite its bleary-eyed central character searching for a saviour. ‘Love Come Back To Me’ received an airing at the previously mentioned Rockabilly Rave and revives some hazy memories of our own due to the forceful manner by which the song infiltrates the senses with its gradual and later incessant picking of guitar, prominent upright bass and lovely drawn-out vocal that leaves nothing but warm memories. It seems, however, that the Trio saved their severest of heartbreaks for the final two outings with ‘Gone And Left Me Blues’ and ‘I’ll Go My Way’. The former of the two songs is at one moment full of bitter resentment and at others sounding utterly desolate, which is full credit to the band due to a convincing vocal played out to a moody rhythm the kind of which Johnny Cash would have been proud. This is finally topped off by the more gentle sway of the aforementioned ‘I’ll Go My Way’ with its brilliant yet desperate request, “Just tell me one time that I’m on your mind”. On the evidence of ‘Just Honky Tonkin’ Around!’ the Rhythm River Trio is one of the finest in their field.



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