LEGENDS!…we’re gonna play a bit, BRIAN SETZER Rockabilly Banjo
by Walter Price
Not too many folks like a personal anecdote in a rock n roll review, if you’re such a person, please divert your gaze from this paragraph. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to interview many of my music heroes. With some gut-punching gaffes along the way. One such moment came some time ago when I got the news I was going to interview one of the iconic fellas who truly helped soundtrack my youth and caused my pompadour to pile ever higher. A guy who, along with Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker, not only helped shaped my youthful style but introduced me to an alternative to that era’s alternatives. So, before I met Mr. Setzer in a Trump Hotel in Manhatten, I squared my questions and honed my approach. I just had to get this right. Well, let’s just say, I flubbed straight-up facts and histories. Things I knew for decades, yet, there I was face-to-face with an icon and he was correcting me time and time again with the kindest of annoyance… Oui c’est la vie, as they say…
Anyhoo, this is now and the ever-evolving trendsetter is back with a brand new album, ‘Gotta Have The Rumble’, and its pure front-porch Americana through and through. Of course, as the title suggest, with a rockabilly backbone that’ll thrill and cause chills for long-time fans as well as newcomers alike.
In a heavily used quote, courtesy of Surfdog Records, Setzer talks about the LP’s backstory, “Obviously, it’s a reference to my motorcycles and hot rods, something that hasn’t changed since I was 15 years old. I still have the same passion for going fast and adrenaline. But it’s also about my hearing problem with tinnitus–the ringing of the ear. It was pretty bad, and I realized that I couldn’t play the way I wanted to. As I recovered, standing in front of a small amplifier just didn’t cut it. The sound from my big amp makes the guitar rumble. Which is a big part of my sound. I was really despondent for a while because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do that again. So, ‘Gotta Have The Rumble’ refers to both of those things.”
For my money, one of the tip-top numbers is the brilliant storytelling that unfolds in the last song of the 11-track set, “Rockabilly Banjo”. It harkens back to a time when the family would gather around the television set and the images and sounds that would emit from that awkward box could be life-changing. I like to think that this song is autobiographical, but it doesn’t matter much. The imagery of a young person seeing and hearing music so powerful it altered his/her course forever, is the kinda indelible stuff TikTok may not be able to reproduce for the coming generations. Time will tell, I suppose…
And the accompanying music video, with its black and white retro clips that lay out the story in brilliant detail, is the cat’s meow. Kudos to whoever edited this vidual gem for Setzer and Surfdog. You can see it as well as stream the full ‘Gotta Have The Rumble’, now at the GTC.
BRIAN SETZER Gotta Have The Rumble
Artist photo via Facebook // Quotes courtesy Surfdog Records & Facebook
Songs written by, Brian Setzer, Stephen “Dibbs” Preston, Mike Himelstein, James McDonnell
Produced by Julian Raymond
“So after you get about eight songs deep, you don’t want to write the same song twice. I always sit back and ask, ‘what does this record need?’ So I go for a motorcycle ride, go for a long walk and figure it out. I thought, this needs a Bo Diddley vibe. And I just started humming ‘high compression, low compression, no compression, no matter, burn rubber, make my heart go pitter patter, pitter patter.’ So that’s what came out, just a train of thought. ‘All gas, no brakes, adrenaline, head rush, no shimmy, no shakes.’ There you go. It’s catchy!” – B. Setzer (facebook)