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The Rockabilly Collection

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Album Review

Although it's comprised entirely of previously unissued studio material predominantly recorded in 1980 and 1981 that didn't make the first cut on his Rounder albums, there's nothing second-rate about this compilation. The big man with the droopy eyes from Sun records sounds equally inspired on upbeat bluesy rearrangements of tracks rescued from the vault, such as Jimmy Reed's "Bright Lights, Big City," the roof-raising Little Richard cover "Long Tall Sally," and the album closing "Rip It Up." Sure, these chestnuts have been recorded thousands of times, but LaBeef tears into them with enthusiasm and passion, adding fresh nuances and a creative approach. Even Hank Williams' "Fool About You," where Buddy Spicher's fiddle injects a backwoods feel, is augmented by LaBeef's meaty twang guitar and gutsy vocals. His rearranged "Mannish Boy" maintains the classic song's energy but runs it through a swampy rhythm, transforming it into a chugging locomotive. Like Sun's stable of artists, in particular one Elvis Presley, LaBeef sees little difference between rockabilly, country, and blues. It's in the way he incorporates and combines those genres through that deep baritone and skittering guitar that makes him unique. Not just for fans, Rockabilly Blues is as good an introduction to Sleepy LaBeef's charms as any of his other albums. A bit more rockin' and bluesy than most of his stuff, only the album's abbreviated 37-minute length is disappointing about this rollicking, infectious disc. Roots rock & roll at its finest.


Born: July 20, 1935 in Smackover, AR

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Sleepy LaBeef became the ultimate rockabilly survivor, his live performances retaining the same raw power as he approached his eighth decade that they had in the years when he was among the music's pioneers. He was born Thomas Paulsley LaBeff in Smackover, AR. The 6'7" singer has heavily lidded eyes which make him appear half-asleep, hence his nickname. He was raised on a melon farm and grew up hearing both country and blues music. LaBeef moved to Houston at age 18, working at several odd jobs before...
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The Rockabilly Collection, Sleepy LaBeef
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