Back in action, half-forgotten combo find precious rock to swing around the clock.
For all its seeming simplicity, playing rockabilly requires serious guts – and guys who know how to have serious fun, too – as what’s done in the genre should sound genuinely gutsy and be shaped with gusto, so there’s no apparent retro neither in tunes nor in muscular twang or booming voices. Not that this British-American bunch care about contemporary sonics after 45 years in the licks-laying business and influencing such luminaries as Brian Setzer, but then, their previous record appeared on the shelves almost a decade ago, which means a bit of an effort was involved in drawing new pieces up to date – hence the title of the band’s tenth studio album. Still, nothing could come easier to the four original ROCKATS and BLONDIE’s Clem Burke at the rear here and there, and the dozen tracks on offer show the ensemble’s easiness in style – and then some.
With steady beat to spur the strings, the quintet venture on a romp through the arresting variety of covers and originals, starting quite appropriately with Eddie Cochran’s “Nervous Breakdown” where chords are earth-shattering, and dropping in fresh, meaty, greasy even, takes on “Rock Around With Ollie Vee” and “This Is The Night” from the vaults of two Buddys – respectively, Holly and Thompson – alongside their own irresistible material, such as “Rock, Baby, Rock (All Night Long)” that groove like there’s no tomorrow or yesterday, whence many of their tropes arrive. As guitarists Danny B. Harvey and Barry Ryan trade flurries of separate notes and series of fluid solos, and Dibbs Preston’s quivering vocals send shivers down the listener’s spine, especially on the self-penned “50 Miles From Nowhere” and Johny Cash’s “You’re My Baby” which elegantly, friskily gallop on Smutty Smiff’s contrabass riffs, time ceases to matter, and when electric lines cross on “Lucky Old Rockabilly (Walking Down The Pike)” and piano, banjo and slider color “Rockabilly Swamp” – these numbers bookending the beautiful titular blues – staying apathetic is not an option.
That’s why the infectious finale of “Working Man” and a couple of remastered 1980 sides – that display the group’s stunning continuity – feel like a gratuitous delight. That’s why starting over again had been a right decision.