Brian Setzer: New Album Rockabilly Riot: All Original

Brian Setzer

Highly Anticipated Album Available Tuesday, August 12

 “I think the only way you can make a better rockabilly record is if you get Elvis to sing…” ~Brian Setzer on Rockabilly Riot: All Original

Brian Setzer GreatIconic guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Brian Setzer will release Rockabilly Riot: All Original ~ a straight-ahead rockabilly album from start to finish ~ via Surfdog Records on Tuesday, August 12. The new album, featuring the high-octane first single “Let’s Shake,” marks Setzer’s first studio album since 2011’s GRAMMY Award-nominated album Setzer Goes Instru-Mental!

Rockabilly Riot: All Original’s 12 new and original songs are pure rockabilly energy, slicked-back-hair cool, and ass-shakin’ entertainment from start to finish. Setzer brings his trademark twang and fretboard fire and is backed by three musicians whom he calls “…the best in their craft:” Mark Winchester (bass), Kevin McKendree (piano), and Noah Levy (drums). Recorded in Nashville, the album was produced by Peter Collins (who’s handled the same honors for quintessential Setzer albums Vavoom! and The Dirty Boogie.

L - R, Mark, Kevin, and Noah

Here’s the track listing for Rockabilly Riot: All Original:

  1. Let’s Shake
  2. Rockabilly Blues
  3. Vinyl Records
  4. Lemme Slide
  5. Nothing Is A Sure Thing
  6. What’s Her Name
  7. Calamity Jane
  8. The Girl With The Blues In Her Eyes
  9. Stiletto Cool
  10. I Should Have Had A V8
  11. Blue Lights Big City
  12. Cock-a-Doodle Don’t

A Q & A with Brian Setzer, One Very Cool Cat

Photo courtesy of Joseph Russo,

First, congratulations on the new album!  Would it be rude of us to say, “Man, finally?!”  You don’t put out an album for a while and there is something major missing from the music scene!  Rockabilly ~ and your own personal style that you bring to it ~ is just so gloriously uncomplicated, badass, and uplifting all at once…and for me (and most likely many, many other fans worldwide, it’s literally uplifting, as the moment I start playing, say, The Dirty Boogie, my butt lifts off the chair and I am happily dancing around the house without a care in the world).  That said, what does the term “Rockabilly” mean in your mind?

Photo courtesy of Yanick Provenzano

Brian Setzer: Rockabilly music should be up there in regards with blues music. It should be playing in arenas. And, I think, it’s better than the blues because it has a style to it, it has accomplished musicians playing it and it’s totally American.  So I think it’s very underrated music that should be more in the forefront of our culture.  

What was special and so much fun about creating Rockabilly Riot: All Original?

Brian: You know, when my guitar and my amp and my echo unit are playing perfectly and in tune the way they do there’s no reason to turn it off.  I was on the road for two months.  I had given the songs I’d written to all the band members and we hadn’t arranged them.  So this record was different where we didn’t have to sit down and labor over arrangements, everything was learned, and my guitar sound sounded so good I just made the record.  We didn’t need to change guitars, amps, microphones ~ we just cut a rockabilly record ~there’s no overdubs, there’s no splicing, there’s no auto tuning; what you hear is what you get, it’s pretty much us making live music.

Brian in his studio

There’s the genius that comes from keeping things uncomplicated ~ and it made for a true gem of an album that not only lets the music sound its best, but lets us hear the joy you all experienced making it.

To us, it seems like the chemistry in the studio amongst you, producer Peter Collins, and the Rockabilly musicians who joined you on the album was lightning in a bottle…true?

Producer Peter Collins

Brian: I think the only way you can make a better rockabilly record is if you get Elvis to sing…because Mark Winchester, Kevin McKendree and Noah Levy are the best in their craft. Nobody plays a better slap bass than Mark.  Kevin McKendree calls himself a “rockabilly piano player,” I’ve never heard anybody say that.  And Noah just has a very swampy groovy feel, which makes the whole thing sound kinda loose.  Peter Collins…it’s funny how English people seem to have a more sensibility about what rockabilly music is, even though it was invented in the South…they seem to know what it should sound like.  Peter Collins is experienced and an accomplished producer, he’s done a lot of records, but he loves rockabilly music and he knows what it should sound like.

What makes this album stand out from your [many] previous ones?

Brian: Boy, I’ve made a lot of records.  I think this album is pretty similar to two albums I’ve cut in the past. It sounds to me a little bit like Ignition: Part 2 and also like the first Stray Cats record. It’s rockabilly songs. It’s not just blues songs in the rockabilly style. People like to call it “neo-billy” I suppose which is some invented word that somebody came up with, but if that’s the word they want to use, I’d like to go with that because it sounds to me like it’s very modern and fresh sounding rockabilly.

Brian doing what he does best...

“Let’s Shake” is one hell of a burnin’, up-tempo tune…a perfect setup for the rest of the album and a terrific single. What gives this song its special mojo?

Brian: Yeah, “Let’s Shake,” how come no one has thought of that title yet?  We’ve been making rock ‘n roll now for 60 years and no one has come up with “Let’s Shake?”  And I came up with it and I went, “Wow…let’s shake!” You know, oh god, it’s just so simple it’s magic.  It’s got a really great guitar solo in it, just rock ‘n roll sounding…it’s not really “billy” sounding, it’s more rock and roll.  And, you know, there’s a difference.  The rockabilly has a more of a slap back hillbilly sound and the rock and roll is tougher. Oh god, it’s got that great, I think it’s from a 1928 piano, it’s a Steinway. Again, it’s the simplest songs that are the hardest to write.

Another highlight of the album is “Vinyl Records,” so I have to ask ~ what are your favorite vinyl records you own or once owned?

Brian: Gene Vincent’s Blue Jean Bop, Eddie Cochran’s Greatest Hits, and Elvis Presley’s The Sun Sessions.

More about Brian Setzer :

The ultimate in Rockabilly style…Brian with his first hot rod ~ a '31 Model A Ford ~ in front of All-American Hamburgers (1983) ~ Says Brian, "I remember drag racing on Old Country Road before the cops shut us down!" The Ford, built by Mike Harmon at Massapequa Auto Body, was used on the cover of Stray Cats’ Rant n' Rave.

3-time GRAMMY award-winner Brian Setzer is a “musician’s musician,” credited with continually taking chances with innovative and daring musical styles and single-handedly resurrecting two forgotten musical genres ~ rockabilly in the ‘80s and swing in the ’90s.  Along the way, he has scored chart-topping hits throughout his decorated career as founder/leader of the Stray Cats (Who can ever forget “Stray Cat Strut!”), his 18-piece Brian Setzer Orchestra, and as a solo artist.

One of Brian's beautiful Gretsch guitars

He is consistently cited as one of the world’s greatest living guitarists and has an extensive, best-selling line of elite Gretsch signature model guitars bearing his name. Brian made a cameo in the 1987 film La Bamba (the biographical film written following the life and career of Chicano rock ‘n’ roll star Ritchie Valens), portraying rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran. In 2002, Brian earned the distinct honor of being one of the few musicians to be animated in an episode of “The Simpsons,” an episode which also featured rock ‘n’ roll legends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Brian leading the Brian Setzer Orchestra