CD REVIEWS:
GOLLY GEE, THEY'RE ROCKIN'
ON THE LEFT COAST, EAST COAST,
TEXAS AND MICHIGAN!

BY BARRY M. KLEIN - February, 2003
If the recently released CD's reviewed in this column are any indication, 2003 promises to be a fruitful year in new rockabilly music.
             Let's start off with two great new CD's from two young men from Lower California with an already impressive track record as singers/songwriters/musicians/performers: Rip Carson and Deke Dickerson.



Carson's new release is called "Box Set, The Singles Collection" with a clever cover photograph of an opened cardboard box, and 45 and 33 RPM records from the King and Federal record labels flowing out of the box on a black and white tiled floor. Rip, who already has released two CD's on Ronny Weiser's Rollin' Rock label in addition to appearances on other CD's, has come up with a different, but equally satisfying effort here. I found much more variety on the "Box Set" CD, although Rip never abandons his rockabilly identity. The very first song, "Before I Go", is as straight-up rockabilly as it gets, with great bass lines and a toe-tappin', good-to-dance-to beat. "Don't Ya Lie To Me" is a good song with a catchy instrumental beginning. In "As Long As I Live", a Roy Acuff song featuring Carl "Sonny" Leyland on piano, Rip's voice sounds more like a "crooner" than a rocker, and he ain't a bad crooner either! "Just Can't Find the Words" starts off with a Rock & Roll Trio guitar riff and even the yells are reminiscent of "Rockabilly Boogie". This is a Jerry Reed song that is also one of my favorites on the CD. "My Way to Canaan" is an up-tempo gospel number a la Jack Scott's "Save My Soul". "Can't Get Loose ÎA You Baby" is collaboration of songwriting skills by Rip and Mark Neill of Soil Of The South Productions, the latter of which produced this CD, and Mark also handles the lead guitar chores on the "Box Set" as well. More about Mark Neill later, but you should know he also casts his imprint on the new Deke Dickerson CD, "Deke Dickerson in 3-Dimensions!" "One Heart's Left" is a medium tempo change-of-pace for Rip, with a rockabilly/calypso arrangement. "Nobody's Woman" is a Charlie Feather's song performed very well by Rip and his band.
             This is a solid effort by Rip Carson, featuring a good variety of song arrangements, but nobody is going to sort this CD anywhere but in the "rockabilly" rack at your favorite store, or music web site.



"Deke Dickerson in 3-Dimensions!" The cover tells it all: three different pictures of Deke (ironically none of him with his trademark double-neck Mosrite guitar): as a straight-up rock & roller, a kneeling rockabilly singer, and Deke wearing a fringed western shirt and cowboy hat signifying the "Hillbilly Deke".
             From Deke's past association with The Dave and Deke Combo, his fans know that Deke has a love for retro/roots hillbilly, classic country, honky-tonk and western swing music. His CD's on the Hightone label, while accentuating rockabilly, did not ignore Deke's sense of humor, country inclinations, or rock-n-roll roots either. Although only the "Rockabilly Deke!" section of this CD was recorded at Mark Neill's Soil of the South Studios, the entire CD was engineered and "mixed and fixed" by Mark Neill at his Soil of the South Studios, and Mark's drummer from his own band, Craig Packham, appears on both the "Rockabilly Deke!" and the "Hillbilly Deke!" sections of the CD. What we have here are 17 excellent song selections, 6 of which were written by Deke, and others written by such performers as Charlie Rich, Johnny Horton, Merle Travis, and Faron Young. It's all great music, even though there might be some good arguments made for certain songs in one category to have been placed in another, e.g. "Sittin' & Thinkin" by Charlie Rich and "Take The Long Way Home" by Johnny Horton, but the bottom line is: Great CD, excellent song selection, terrific musicians and a variety of good-sounding music. I was particularly impressed with Deke's recruiting of David Biller and Jeremy Wakefield, who have not only recorded "solo" together, but also appeared on the road and on recordings with Wayne Hancock, and ditto for that matter with respect to Billy Horton of the Horton Brothers, who also appeared on the "Hillbilly Deke!" section, playing upright bass. (Biller's wife, Karen, is a drummer who plays with Austin, Texas hero, Cornell Hurd. For more on that, click here http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKSXSW2000.html.
             In the "Deke Dickerson in 3-Dimensions!" CD jacket there is a picture of Rip Carson playing stand up bass, which I have seen him do for other groups at rockabilly festivals in Indianapolis, Las Vegas and Green Bay (Rip also performed the lead guitar chores two years ago in Indianapolis for Levi Dexter). Well here's a little secret: "Jeff Graves", who is the credited bass player on the "Rockabilly Deke!" section of the CD, is a nom de plume for none other than Rip Carson! Even my friend John Conquest, the publisher of 3rd Coast Music, missed that in his review of "Deke Dickerson in 3-Dimensions!" in his February 2003 issue. (John doesn't miss too much!).
             I like so much of this CD, it is difficult for me to pick out five or six favorites, but I will try: "Sittin' & Thinkin", the Charlie Rich song; "Wear Out the Soles of My Shoes" (Deke's own composition); "Take the Long Way Home", an excellent cover of the Johnny Horton classic; "It Would Be a Doggone Lie", another great cover of an Autry Inman song; "You've Been Honky Tonkin'", featuring some good pickin' by Biller and Wakefield, and "Too Hot to Handle".
             Judging from these new releases by Rip Carson and Deke Dickerson, California seems to be leading the charge in to 2003.
             I said I would get back to Mark Neill, and inasmuch as he had so much to do with both the Rip Carson and Deke Dickerson CD's, I thought I would say a little bit about Mark and who he is. Mark has had his studio for over 20 years and has been involved in the music business for 25 years. He has worked with former Gene Vincent guitarist Johnny Meeks and Ricky Nelson (on his last recording before the unfortunate New Year's Eve 1985 plane crash). Mark Neill has also worked with the Paladins for over 20 years including their first LP in 1986 and two recent CD's, "Slippin' In" and "Palvoline Number 7". He worked with Big Sandy on the 1992 "On The Go" release and also with Deke Dickerson on all three of his Hightone LP's, as well as the new Rockin' Ryan CD, "The Lucky Stars", and new recordings by Omar and the String Poppers, and Los Straightjackets (the surf band which includes Eddie Angel). Mark's own group is called The Unknowns, and features, as I mentioned before, Craig Packham on drums. Another client of Mark Neill's is Josie Kreuzer whose CD he was involved with, "Beggin' Me Back", could very well be her best CD yet. I guess Mark is another guy who, after 25 years, has become an "overnight success"! For more information you can contact Mark at info@soilsouth.com or look at his web site at www.soilsouth.com.



A genuine "breakthrough band" at Viva Las Vegas V was The Bop Kings, a San Antonio-based trio that, in addition to their several performances at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Stage, was the official House Band at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Stage shows for Viva Las Vegas in 2002. As a matter of fact, The Bop Kings were so well accepted at Viva Las Vegas V, that they sold out of a seven-song CD they brought to the show. The new CD, "Rock It To The Moon", on the El Toro Records label, is an excellent effort of 13 songs featuring Casey Miller on vocals and acoustic guitar, his brother Tomcat Miller on bass fiddle and backing vocals, and Mike Nesloney on electric guitar and backing vocals. All songs are written by Casey Miller, who demonstrates a good knack for songwriting, as well as some very good singing. As someone who has visited Texas well over a dozen times, and knowing the plethora of musical styles that have been infused into Texas roots music, I am paying Casey the highest tribute when I say that this is definitely a Texas rockabilly band! Good music, great singing, catchy lyrics and a big sound, especially for a trio without a drummer. This CD was engineered and mixed by the same Billy Horton who appears on Deke Dickerson's new CD, and who is apparently on his way to becoming the next Lloyd Maines. Mike Nesloney does a very good job on guitar, and these fellows play together very well. Of the 13 songs on this CD, I think I like too many of them to mention, but one of my favorites is "Brylecream Boogie". (Am I giving away my age much when I say that they misspelled Brylcream? At least I still qualify to use it.)
             "Rock It to the Moon" is terrific, twangy, Texas rockabilly, with Casey's catchy cache of songs. I love that little 7-song CD they sold at Viva Las Vegas V, and this is an even better package. Highly recommended!!



"Tales of Steppin' Off the Rural Route"
I can't help but admire Cash O'Riley. Cash O'Riley and the Downright Daddies have just released a new CD, "Booze Lust, Lies & Heartache "Tales of Steppin' Off the Rural Route". Before I get into the review of this new 12-track, 40-minute CD, I would like to tell you what I know about Cash O'Riley.
             We met a few years ago at the Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan at a Big Sandy concert. At that time, Cash had a group called The Psycho-Billie Cadillacs, and for the past three years he has been doing business as Cash O'Riley and the Downright Daddies. Almost two years ago I saw Cash O'Riley and the Downright Daddies performing as a quartet at the Motor City Spin-Out www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKMotorCity.html and the group at that time included Cash, Johnny Itch, Brian and Drew. Based on the spirited set that they did at the Motor City Spin-Out, I booked Cash at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Stage show at Viva Las Vegas V in 2002. Something funny happened to the group on the way to Las Vegas: they lost a lead guitarist. But that is not the kind of catastrophe that will stop the irrepressible Cash O'Riley: he simply went on with the show without a lead guitarist, although Cash handled some melody chords from his own guitar, but usually played rhythm. The audience feedback was so good from his shows that Tom Ingram booked Cash O'Riley and the Downright Daddies for the Main Stage at Viva Las Vegas VI, which officially kicks off on Thursday, April 17, in Las Vegas (if you are going, however, try not to miss Rockin' Ronny Weiser's Rollin' Rock Records party from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16). At various intervals of time in recent months, Cash has been seeking a bass player, drummer and lead guitarist, but that certainly has not stopped him from coming up with a fine initial CD release with, as Ringo Starr used to say, "a little help from my friends". Cash is King!
             This CD, released on AmericanWax/Jacknife Records, can be purchased at Cash O'Riley's performances or can be ordered via Cash's web site www.cashoriley.com.
             The 12 songs, all but one written by Cash, have some great sounds. Cash and his Downright Daddies keep things moving with good singing, some excellent guitar pickin', a good rhythm section, and even some fine saxophone playing as well as backing vocals. Johnny Itch, who plays doghouse bass for the Downright Daddies, was the saxophone player on the CD, and Brian Bedwell, on the drums, are both original Downright Daddies.
             Dave Roof, who is known to the Michigan rockabillies as the former bass player for The Starlight Drifters and current bass player for Bill Georgio's band, Nobody's Business, produced and engineered this CD at his own Rooftop Studios in Royal Oak, Michigan. With gumption that can possibly only be matched by Cash himself, Dave took it upon himself to play and record the lead guitar tracks after the band had first recorded the bass, drums, vocal and acoustic guitar, so when Cash and crew heard what Dave had done with the lead guitar tracks, everybody was blown away. It just goes to show that talent, ambition, tenacity and the determination of a bull in heat will eventually lead to success. Most of the cuts on the CD are up-tempo rockabilly with a heavy dose of twang that should satisfy any lover of roots/Americana/classic country music, as well as the diehard rockabilly purists. Besides the frequent themes of love, sex and drinking, there are many interesting and enjoyable sounds. The third song on the CD, "Every Time You Walk", is a mid-tempo rockabilly song that reminds me of an early Elvis Presley single that I don't hear too often, "Too Much" (I lost my RCA single many years ago, but I believe the flip side was "I'm Playing For Keeps").
             As is the case with many of our younger generation's rockabilly stars including Craig "Bones" Maki, Cash's exposure to rockabilly was catalyzed by an early propinquity for punk music, and one of the tracks on this CD , "I Love Rock Rock'N'Roll", is Cash's tribute to the Ramones after the death of Joey Ramone in 2002.
             Cash O'Riley is the kind of guy who will get things done no matter what, and that attitude shows up in this CD, and I have no doubt his show in Viva Las Vegas will further augment his rising reputation, and that is destined to happen no matter how many Downright Daddies make it to the stage in Vegas this Easter Weekend.
             Cash O'Riley and the Downright Daddies will also tour the western part of the United States during the spring, and you can check out the venues at www.cashoriley.com.



GOLLY GEE RECORDS
In my CD review posted September 2002 www.rockabillyhall.com/barrycdreviews0902.html, I reviewed the Johnny Cash Tribute, "Dressed In Black", and at the same time I reviewed an excellent CD compilation of new rockabilly called "Rockabilly Rumble", half of which was showcasing the artists in the Golly Gee Records stable www.gollygeerecords.com as well as English-based Raucous Records www.raucousmusic.com. After giving my "thumbs up" to several of the Golly Gee songs in the "Rockabilly Rumble" CD, Mel Spinella, owner of Golly Gee records, sent me six CD's by some of his artists that I liked on "Rockabilly Rumble", including Ralph Rebel, Peter and the Wolves, The Long Island Hornets and The Spinouts. These CD's are as follows:
            Ralph Rebel "Rockabilly Vampire
            Ralph Rebel "Surfin' & Rockin'"
            Ralph Rebel "Big Town Boogie"
            The Spinouts "Crusin' at Night"
            The Long Island Hornets in "Road Kill"
            Peter and the Wolves "Trouble With Girls"



Ralph Rebel is a rockabilly singer/guitarist/songwriter from Long Island, New York. He has been making rockabilly, surf and swing music for over a decade. "Rockabilly Vampire" pretty much sticks to the rockabilly or neo-rockabilly sound. Six of the eleven tracks were written by Ralph Rebel, while others include songs originally written and recorded by the likes of Brian Setzer and Ronnie Dawson. Also on this CD is a Link Davis/Wayne Walker composition, "Sixteen Chicks", which of course was a big hit on the RCA label for rockabilly legend Joe Clay. Ralph Rebel's band on this CD includes, besides Ralph on vocals and guitar, Wild Bill Piscitello on drums, Chris Laybourne on Saxophone, and Tony "Driveway" Plumbo on stand up bass.


Ralph changes his line up of musicians in "Surfin' & Rockin'", while he brings back some in "Big Town Boogie". "Surfin' & Rockin'", as the name implies, infuses more of the surf sound, as well as some rock and roll Link Wray ditties ("Rawhide" and "Rumble"), but the surfer numbers are more prevalent here with Ralph Rebels' own "Half Pipe" as well as standards such as "Perfida", "Pipeline", "Wipeout", and Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk". I hope there are no cats or kittens out there in rockabilly land who object to my reviewing a surf-dominated CD by Ralph Rebel here, but I would "venture" to say that every rockabilly guitarist from 25 to 60 years old (or more) can, without batting an eyelash, come out with some Link Wray power chords or play a number of classic surf instrumentals. Ain't that right, Eddie Angel?!


The third Ralph Rebel CD, "Big Town Boogie", brings back some of the musicians from "Rockabilly Vampire" and blends rockabilly with an urban blues-based sound. Some of the rockabilly numbers include "Train Kept a Rollin'", "Thirteen Women" and "Rockin' Daddy", while some of the more blues-based numbers include "Shake Your Money Maker", "Big Town Boogie", and "Caledonia". After hearing this much of Ralph Rebel, I would sure like to see him perform in person soon.


Ralph Rebel comes back again as the lead guitarist for Peter and the Wolves. Peter Ludovico does the vocals and most of the songwriting, although Ralph Rebel wrote 3 of the 12 songs on "Trouble With Girls" and also co-wrote 4 with Peter Ludovico. Rounding out the band is Joe Klemmer on drums and John Hopkins on the stand up bass. Peter and the Wolves have shared the stage with the likes of Robert Gordon, Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and other famous rockabilly artists. The sound is vintage 50's rockabilly, with a contemporary twist.


The Spinouts are Pete Ludovico of Peter and the Wolves minus Ralph Rebel, Joe Klemmer and John Hopkins. On the 12-track Spin Out CD "Cruisin' at Night", all songs are written solely by Pete Ludovico, who on this CD plays drums and handles most lead vocals, while Lou Yorea, who owns Mulberry Street Pizzeria in Bay Shore, plays the guitar. Has everybody got that straight now??!


Watch Out! It might happen to you too! I got stung! (No, not by the Elvis Presley song, although that single by Elvis, along with the flip side, "One Night", is my favorite double-sided Elvis hit.) I got stung this time by The Long Island Hornets, and it hurt so good. This quartet, in case you couldn't figure it out, hails from Long Island, New York, and these fellows sound very good together. Jeff McLary is the lead vocalist and plays rhythm guitar, and writes most of the songs on this CD. Gary Dawson is the lead guitarist, and Gary and Jeff run very well with the rhythm section which consists of Mike Dejewski on drums, and Peter Crugnale on upright bass and harmonizing vocals. I know this CD was released not too long ago, but these guys sound like they have been together for years.
             My congratulations to Mel Spinella and Golly Gee Records for releasing so much of the music we like to hear!

Barry Klein - bmk@bmkre.com





ŠRockabilly Hall of FameŽ