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Lee Rocker

Racin' the Devil – 2006 (Alligator)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Lee Rocker

Lee Rocker, the bass slappin' former Stray Cat, has forged a smart mix of country and Rev. Horton Heat influenced rockabilly resulting in one of his finest discs ever.

Joined by his regular crew as well as Buzz Campbell of Hot Rod Lincoln, Rocker tears through such classic genre themes as fast cars ("Funny Car Graveyard"), intense partying ("Rockin' Harder") and dangerous women ("The Girl From Hell"). Employing Link Wray era fuzztone power chords, they transform two well-known songs from Rocker's association with the Stray Cats ("Rock This Town") and Phantom, Rocker, and Slick ("Running From the Hounds") into atmospheric rockabilly noir. Amid the tough funny rockers ("Racetrack Blues") and wild, danceable shuffles ("Swing This") are some genuinely exciting shades of country. Singing with newfound expressiveness, Rocker sounds completely immersed in his twang-laden paeans to life on the road ("Texarkana to Panama City"), ethereal folk-meets-Duane Eddy recollections ("A River Runs Through it") and caffeinated Jackson Browne ballads ("Lost on the Highway").

Even the lone Carl Perkins cover ("Say When") plays out like an electric Johnny Cash/Vince Gill hybrid. Brilliantly running the gamut from ominous too effervescent, Rocker's latest outing has definitively declared a personal rockabilly coming of age.