In Washington, a city that boasts some of the best rockabilly bands in the nation, groups like the Diversions and the Bob E. Rock Quartet are likely to go unnoticed. Too bad.
Last night at Desperado's, when the Diversions were playing in tune -- a problem at the outset -- they were always more than adequate and often inventive. Songs associated with Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were given conventional treatments but an originally laconic country ballad by Bob Dylan bristled with energy, and much of the band's original material had a similar New Wave bent. Unfortunately, the Diversions really don't have an expressive vocalist right now. For the time being at least, their best moments are confined to the instrumental breaks.
The opposite is true of the Bob E. Rock Quartet. The band's principle asset is Rock himself, a singer with a towering blond pompadour and engaging stage presence, and the vocal agility to do justice to the songs of Elvis, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. Lead guitarist Eddie Angel displayed a similar affection for rockabilly tradition not just in his accompaniment but in his own energetic instrumentals. Neither of these bands may live up to the consistently high standards of local musicians like Billy Hancock and Tex Rabinowitz, but they're certainly both worth hearing.