The Hi-Risers

In the Spotlight!

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In the Spotlight! contains more of the same thing from the Hi-Risers, and a fine thing it is indeed. As the new century moved into its second year, chances are you could have counted on less than a few fingers the extant bands and artists who could toss off a James Burton or Chuck Berry-worthy riff, choke out a chorus with Elvis Presley's tremulous enticement, or lustily coax a 12-bar blues bassline down from your ears to your gut and finally to your pelvis. In short, you could probably use a single hand to tally the bands who had any notion that the music they played emanated from some very specific and visceral rock & roll roots. It's hard to imagine, for instance, Matchbox 20 ever having covered a Buddy Holly tune during rehearsal or, for that matter, even a band as remarkable as Radiohead listening to any music that was created before, say, 1968, despite the fact that theoretically you should be able to use their music to chart a course back to those beginnings. With the Hi-Risers, no genealogical chart is necessary. They play the genuine article, no frills and no fey artsy-fartsyness. This is rock & roll, baby: Just let your feet touch the ground, and instantly find yourself transported to the era of Eisenhower and American Bandstand, Brill Cream in the medicine cabinet and packs of cigarettes rolled up in T-shirt sleeves, soda counters and drive-in movie theaters, Packards and tailfins. This is rock & roll before its Frankensteinian mutation, not as moist-eyed baby boomers have tended to play it at county fairs and local pubs but as it originally sounded (and too rarely sounds any longer). In the Spotlight! is packed from rafter to rafter with alternately or synchronously buoyant, greasy, rollicking, sweaty, and propulsive tunes, surf and rockabilly licks, one-note guitar solos ("One Note Joe"), diversions into aw-shucks ("Johnny, Jim & Jack," an ode to fine liquors) and dancehall country ("Fun Lovin' Gal"), vintage angst-filled instrumentals ("Goin' Mad"), and the sort of perfectly thumping backbeat ("That's Gotta Be My Baby") that must keep time in rock & roll heaven. Recommended.

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