Lee Rocker

Bulletproof

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Four years after his successful live disc, Lee Rocker returns with a studio set that equals anything he recorded nearly two decades earlier with his most noted resumé entry, the Stray Cats. Sporting a full yet stripped-down, authentic sound, doghouse bassist Rocker, along with a tough trio, burn through 14 tracks in under 45 minutes, all but four of which are originals from either Rocker or bandmate Tara Novick. Accurate to its '50s roots yet utilizing contemporary recording techniques, Rocker's retro rockabilly shimmers with tight playing, great songs, and a no-frills approach that updates yet doesn't dilute his Sun-era references. The two-guitar backup fleshes out the sound, lending it a fuller, broader context than the three-piece Cats, while maintaining a slashing, near-primitive attack. Even though "Blue Suede Nights" is little more than a knockoff of "Stray Cat Blues" and "Upright and Underground" nudges a little too close to "Train Kept a Rollin'" territory, the title track and the strutting "Dog Gone Right," both originals, sound like long-lost classics. Rocker's revved-up versions of the Buddy Holly-popularized "Midnight Shift," Lennon and McCartney's "I'll Cry Instead," and Johnny Cash's "Johnny, Frankie's Man" bring new life and rollicking arrangements to these chestnuts. The slap-happy bassist sounds invigorated, energized, and thoroughly determined, tackling tracks like "Nervous Little Angel," "Evil," and Carl Perkins' "One More Shot" with jittery energy that equals anything done with the Cats and even gives the '50s guys he idolizes a run for their money. Bulletproof is required listening for rockabilly fans and anyone who owns a Stray Cats or Sun-era Elvis album.

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