WASHINGTON produced some of the best music of the early '80s rockabilly revival, but it never translated that music into commercial success, because the scene was never recorded properly.

It's only now, years after the scene has faded, that we finally get the definitive D.C. rockabilly record. That album, "Tex Rubinowitz," represents the long, tall, silver-haired patriarch of the local scene with four songs from his early '80s singles plus five songs from the most creative 1985 session.

Like most rockabilly singers, Rubinowitz has an excited edge to his voice, as if anything could happen next and he can hardly wait to find out what it is. Like too few rockabilly singers, Rubinowitz's vocals all possess another quality, a deep resonance beneath the agitation; it's as if he'd seen so many surprises come and go that he can appreciate the larger pattern.

This same dynamic between fresh anticipation and hard-won knowledge marks Rubinowitz's songwriting and arrangements. When he sings "Feelin' Right Tonight" to a deliberate, rocking beat, it's clear that tonight is a triumph over his usual routine.

Even better are two newer songs, "No One Left to Turn To," and "No Club (Lone Wolf)," which are marked by a powerful current of loneliness beneath the vibrant music. That vibrancy is supplied by some of D.C.'s best musicians: Tom Corradino plays swamp accordion on the '85 songs, and Billy Hancock, Rubinowitz's only rockabilly peer in the region, matches guitars with the singer on the early Ripsaw singles.


"Tex Rubinowitz" (NCP NC 001). Appearing Sunday at Twist and Shout in the Bethesda American Legion hall.