Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!
The Stray Cat takes another break from his namesake swing-revival orchestra, this time to create something he’s been hinting at for a while: an all-instrumental, cross-genre outing.
From the first Brian Setzer Orchestra album in 1994 to the 11th in 2010, he’s nearly always included an instrumental: “Sleepwalk,” “Caravan,” “The Nutcracker Suite,” “James Bond Theme,” “Honky Tonk,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Mr. Jazzer Goes Surfin’,” “Mr. Surfer Goes Jazzin’,” “Batman” — he’s even featured instrumentals on the occasional solo album and CD single. The eighth BSO album, “Wolfgang’s Big Night Out,” puts a swingin’ twist on classical standards and contains just two tracks with vocals.
Mixing covers with originals, “Instru-MENTAL!” is a heavenly gumbo of multitracked guitar picking and strumming, accompanied only by upright bass and drums (with the exception of vibraphone on the perky and appropriately sequenced ditty “Intermission”).
Setzer deftly traverses rockabilly, rock and roll, country, jazz, surf and bluegrass, often combining more than one style within a song. “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” for instance, boasts rockabilly picking on top of jazz strumming. In an interview with Guitar Player magazine, the guitarist revealed he was “copping Elvis’ version of the song, not Bill Monroe’s.”
“Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown” is another number that exemplifies “-MENTAL’s” maniacal musical melange. Speed-flatpicking in the vein of Jimmy Bryant, Joe Maphis or Merle Travis and jazz stylings not unlike latter-era Hank Garland are but a few of the ideas Setzer pieced together for this Frankenstein’s monster of a song.
Other highlights include possibly the first instrumental version of Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula”; a rare Setzer banjo workout on Earl Scruggs’ “Earl’s Breakdown”; and two surf-style selections: “Hot Love” and “Go-Go Godzilla.”
The album’s final two covers are Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” and an early white blues song from the 1920s that evolved into a jazz standard: Gene Austin and Nathaniel Shilkret’s “Lonesome Road.”
1. Blue Moon Of Kentucky
4. Earl’s Breakdown
5. Far Noir East
7. Go-Go Godzilla
8. Lonesome Road
9. Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown
10. Hot Love
Total time: 34:39