"Rockabilly Riot Vol.1 -- A Tribute to

Sun Records"



"Dig That Crazy Christmas"



"Christmas Extravaganza!"


Retro rocker Brian Setzer has packed a few rockabilly stocking stuffers for his current tour, including a CD tribute to the Sun label and CD and DVD collections of holiday themes and cheery tangents.

Compressing 23 songs into 60 minutes, "Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1" is a Memphis revel without pause. Pitching his voice high and low, and often using his signature Gretsch guitar to evocative effect, Setzer salutes the Sun kings and their disciples with spirit, affection and sometimes surprising fidelity. Sure, his vocals sound anonymous at times and the performances lack the spark of spontaneity that ignited the original recordings. But how could it be otherwise, given the artists who appear on the honor roll here? The short list includes Elvis Presley ("Just Because"), Johnny Cash ("Get Rhythm"), Carl Perkins ("Blue Suede Shoes"), Charlie Rich ("Lonely Weekends"), Carl Mann ("Mona Lisa") and Billy Lee Riley ("Flyin' Saucer Rock and Roll"). The performances may not whet your appetite for Vol. 2, yet by placing a spotlight on Sam Phillips's Memphis marvels, Setzer pays off a big debt in entertaining, loose-limbed fashion.

The prevailing mood on "Dig That Crazy Christmas" is summed up by the title of one of the tunes on this 13-track CD: Steve Allen's holiday classic "Cool Yule." Taking his cue from Elvis (and taking some liberties as well), Setzer also croons "White Christmas," though not before saluting two kings (Elvis and Nat Cole) and a swing-era icon (Glenn Miller) with "Gettin' in the Mood (for Christmas)." There are chestnuts aplenty here, including a galloping "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" laced with equal parts guitar twang and trombone growl, and the surefire coda, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" a sentimental, curtain-dropping duet with singer Julie Reiten.

The DVD "Christmas Extravaganza!" finds Setzer's orchestra decked out in jolly apparel for a concert recorded at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. The holiday spirit inspires both the inevitable performances ("Blue Christmas") and the improbable ("Nutcracker Suite"). Setzer's hits keep coming, too -- "Stray Cat Strut," "Jump, Jive an' Wail" and others, each complementing the jingle bell rock.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at the 9:30 club.

Brian Setzer honors his predecessors.