Much of the current rockabilly revival seems constrained by a sophistication at odds with the music's redneck roots. By contrast, Johnny Seaton sings rockabilly with the unconstrained lowbrow enthusiasm that only a former Elvis impersonator could muster. The 23-year-old Beltsville tenor has moved from impersonation to inspiration on his self-released debut album, "Uptown."
As he sings two originals and eight obscure tunes by Roy Orbison and Fats Domino, among others, he seems less concerned with being historically hip than with someday owning his own pink Cadillac.
Seaton's bright, unafraid voice cuts through the cliches with a contagious, nervous excitement. He gets crucial help from two local talents: guitarist Danny Gatton and bassist Evan Johns. Gatton's condensed rhythmic skills add a twitching tension to such songs as "Don't Play With Me" and "Right Now." The title cut and "Get With It" were specially arranged for Seaton by rockabilly cult legend Charlie Feathers.
As likable as this album is, however, Seaton has to develop his own material and, more importantly, his own style before he can move beyond the local circuit. He's already taken an important first step by cutting through calculated revivalism to rockabilly's low-rent roots. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM JOHNNY SEATON -- Uptown (Renegade RR 101). THE SHOW ROBERT GORDON with Johnny Seaton at the Wax Museum Sunday.