Billy Burnette and Shawn Camp - The Bluegrass Elvises, Vol. 1
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The Bluegrass Elvises, Vol. 1 (Thirty Tigers, 2007)

Billy Burnette and Shawn Camp

Reviewed by Ken Burke

A mix of neatly played roots music and cynical commercialism, this 12-song collection of Elvis Presley tunes done bluegrass style by Shawn Camp and Billy Burnette is occasionally fun. Just don't expect too much.

As stated in the liner notes, Presley's groundbreaking style was based on a combination of sexually charged r&b and bluegrass. However, in comparison to the dazzling synthesis Presley achieved with Scotty Moore and Bill Black, Camp and Burnette's transformation of such classic rock 'n' roll hits as "Burnin' Love," "Hound Dog," and "Blue Suede Shoes" into fiddle and banjo laden barndance ditties, feels forced and corny.

That said, some songs are executed with puckish charm. Blessed with percolating banjo riffs and Appalachian harmonies galore, "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Mystery Train" and "Don't Be Cruel" sound like a zingy cross between the Osborne Brothers and Ralph Stanley. Further, the overdrive banjo substituting for electric guitar works just fine on remakes of "Little Sister" and "Jailhouse Rock."

Yet, Burnette too often eschews the brooding sexuality that distinguishes his best solo rockabilly sides. Moreover, Camp hokes it up as if Presley's greatest songs were somehow beneath his considerable interpretive talents. The result is a shallow novelty - clever, yet lacking any sense of personal conviction.

CDs by Billy Burnette and Shawn Camp

The Bluegrass Elvises, Vol. 1, 2007

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