After breaking up the Stray Cats
in 1984, Brian Setzer
spent several years seemingly avoiding the rockabilly issue, first cutting a heartland rock album (1986's The Knife Feels Like Justice
) and then forming his swing band the Brian Setzer Orchestra
. But Setzer
seems to have come to terms with the intersection of twang and bop in the 21st century (particularly since the release of Ignition!
in 2001), and this live CD documents Setzer
on-stage in Japan in October 2006, cranking up his rockin' guitar for the very audible delight of a packed house. Setzer
's band on this set, the Nashvillains
, sound like a louder, tighter, and fuller variation on the Stray Cats
, with pianist/guitarist Robbie Chevrier
filling in the spaces when Setzer
is soloing and bassist Ronnie Crutcher
and drummer Bernie Dresel
laying down a hard but traditionalist backbeat, though with a lot more flash than the average rockabilly act (the rhythm section doesn't solo much on a Gene Vincent
session). The musicians blend well with Setzer
, and the frontman's guitar skills are as sharp as ever, so any fans hoping to hear him tear off a few choice solos will be amply rewarded on this disc. The set list features a few classic rockabilly covers, including "Red Hot," "Put Your Cat Clothes On," and "Slow Down," and they inadvertently reveal Setzer
's weak spot -- he can write a good showcase for his guitar work, but as a lyricist he's never been able to move past the cars/girls/retro-cool clichés that have dominated his work since the Stray Cats
, and his own songs usually suffer in comparison, especially on this set. Fans and guitar mavens will eat up Red Hot & Live!
, but this album doesn't hold much in the way of surprises, beyond the continued excellence of Setzer
's skills as a rockabilly picker.