Brian Setzer goes totally instru-mental

A guitar lesson from Brian Setzer

By Bruce Sylvester

Surf guitar sounds often surface on lightning-fingered Stray Cat Brian Setzer’s first all-instrumental disc, Instru-mental (Surfdog Records).  One track’s title, “Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown,” too fits much of the album.   Earl Scruggs’ “Earl’s Breakdown” (with Setzer switching from his Gretsch to banjo) and Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” are among the rootsy classics he adapts here, generally with standup bass and drums backing his barrage of notes.   Given that back in the ‘50s stern Monroe  was one of the few Nashville stars who supported young Elvis Presley (who converted Monroe’s signature song to rockabilly),  chances are Big Mon – never mind how steadfastly he personally stuck to the style he pioneered — would appreciate Setzer’s revamp of it too.

“Be-Bop-A-Lula” – without the panting vocals Gene Vincent gave the 1956 original – reveals how much its authors, Vincent and Tex Davis, copped the melody of Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters 1954 “Money Honey.”

There’s certainly a Les Paul influence here too.

About Bruce Sylvester

Bruce Sylvester is a regular contributor to Goldmine magazine.

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