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Racin' the Devil

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Album Review

The Alligator imprint's most overtly non-blues signing, at least until its American appearance in early 2006 (the same album, entitled The Curse of Rockabilly, had been available in Europe in 2005 on a different label with a rearranged track configuration), is a rollicking roots rock disc. Although he has remained far more under the radar in his solo career than fellow Stray Cats founder Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker has rather quietly yet consistently released no-nonsense albums filled with hardcore rockabilly and country since the on-again, off-again demise of the Cats. Although he played second fiddle to Setzer's frontman in that band, Rocker has developed a terrific singing voice, not as commercially appealing as Setzer's perhaps, but perfect for his roughed-up style of roots music. The bassist also exploits a knack for combining country twang with rock & roll, and some of his originals on this album are nearly as memorable as anything from the Stray Cats. Guitarists Brophy Dale and Buzz Campbell bring the requisite twang and reverb, intertwining without stepping on each other's toes. Aside from a snazzy cover of Carl Perkins' "Say When" and the Cats' "Rock This Town," (perhaps not entirely necessary) originals dominate the set. Rocker digs back to his Phantom, Rocker & Slick days for a rearranged "Runnin' from the Hounds," giving it a new lease on life with a swampier arrangement featuring dirty slide guitar. He also tries his hand at a singer/songwriter ballad, "Lost on the Highway," that would slot in just fine on a Dave Alvin album. The opening "The Girl from Hell" less successfully tries to approximate the harder-edged rockabilly that works so well for Reverend Horton Heat, but the results sounds forced. Rather, it's the slapback bass-driven, pomade-era, Sun-styled rocking such as "Funny Car Graveyard" and "Race Track Blues" that drives the energy of this disc. As the closing jazzy instrumental "Swing This" attests, Rocker refuses to be constricted by a specific genre, nudging the boundaries of rockabilly to produce music just as exciting, but effectively forging paths that cross-pollinate with other strains of Americana.


Born: August 03, 1961 in Long Island, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

A longtime bassist with the rockabilly revival trio the Stray Cats, Lee Rocker was born Lee Drucker in 1961. With fellow Long Island schoolmates Brian Setzer and Slim Jim Phantom, he formed the Stray Cats in 1979. The group relocated to London the following year, scoring a series of U.K. Top Ten hits including "Runaway Boys," "Stray Cat Strut," and "Rock This Town" before returning stateside to enjoy similar success. The group's meteoric rise took its toll on the bandmembers, however, and in 1983...
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Racin' the Devil, Lee Rocker
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