Brian Setzer // ‘The Devil Always Collects’ // Album Review

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There’s no stopping this guy!  Yes, the legendary Brian Setzer, infamous for leading Rockabilly band The Stray Cats back in the ’80s, is back with his new album ‘The Devil Always Collects’, faster than you can say ‘Pass me the Brylcream’.

The album is due to be released on Surfdog  Records on 15th September 2023 and is produced by Setzer and Julian Raymond. Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge,  it’s filled with a multitude of genres such as Rock and Americana.  But of course, there’s Setzer’s own take on each track that makes any of them instantly recognisable.

It only seems like 5 minutes ago Setzer’s last album ‘Gotta Have The Rumble’ was released (in 2021), and this new album still features 11 mighty tracks that are sure to have your feet tapping with all those Rockabilly trimmings. What’s just as surprising, is that this is his 13th solo album since 1986. This dude has sure been busy.

The opening track ‘Rock Boys Rock’ kicks off with that train-shuffling brushing beat on the snare drum that drives you into Setzer’s first of many chicken-picking riffs on one of his Gretsch guitars. The hollering of ‘Plug it in the box and show me what you got’ by the female backing singers during the track does however make you wonder if they’re really talking about plugging his guitar into an amp! Whatever, it’s a great track to start the album and with the guitar and drums at the forefront backed by that slapping double bass, it’s in a true Rockabilly style. ’Go Brian Go!’

The title track of the album, ’The Devil Always Collects’, ramps up that tempo although a tad shorter than most of the tracks on the album; but that increase in BPM works well with the tip-toeing climbing riff on the guitar and double bass, allowing Setzer to exhibit the musicianship we all know him for.

‘Girl On The Billboard’ however takes you in a different direction with its tone. One of the first things that are noticeable is how deep Setzer’s vocals are, and how much smoother the bass guitar sounds in comparison to the usual double bass, which makes a striking contrast to the vibe of the guitar.  A very welcoming one though and a really catchy tune.

But midway through the album, Setzer throws some Rock/Americana into the mix with ‘Black Leather Jacket’, which is actually quite a shock to listen to at first both vocally and instrumentally. That Rockabilly sound we’ve become accustomed to for all these years completely goes out of the window, and it almost feels like you’re listening to Thin Lizzy with those 70’s harmonies on the guitar. Were they even played on a Gretsch? Who knows?  It took a bit of getting used to,  and you’ve got to take your hat off to him for giving it his best shot; just totally unexpected.

‘She’s Got A Lotta…Soul’ showcases the work with his Orchestra, and with the brass ensemble and bluesy riffs, it has a modern yet 50’s kind of sound to it. The same goes for ‘Play That Fast Thing’; a slower Rockabilly track backed by female harmonies that make it feel much more uplifting than others on the album.

The remaining tracks take Setzer back to his roots and to what comes naturally; good old Rockabilly.  Those crazy mixed-up guitar jangles on one of his many Signature or Vintage Gretsch guitars and 50’s style vocals, which is what he’s all about and what fans would expect to hear. Having said that, the last track ‘One Particular Chick’, does make you think that it’s going to lead into his own rendition of Amii Stewart’s ’Knock on Wood’, given the earlier contrast of ‘Black Leather Jacket’.

‘The Devil Always Collects’ is wholly based on Setzer’s usual Rockabilly style, and you wouldn’t expect anything else. But; and that’s a big but; there are a couple of tracks on the album that stand out like a sore thumb and do let the album down somewhat. There’s nothing wrong with how they’re written or performed, and they prove just how versatile Setzer has become over his long career as a ‘musician’s musician’;  but from a fan’s perspective, who just wants to hear another album jam-packed with the crisp tone and fleeting riffs of his Gretsch guitars, these tracks may benefit from being released on their own with such a change in direction, rather than being included on the album.

All in all, there are some great tracks on there; some really catchy tunes that have a more modern twist to what you’d normally hear from him and others that will have you reminiscing back to Setzer’s Stray Cat days.  Full marks to him for thinking outside of the box and giving it a go.

 

Review: Emma Painter

 

BRIAN SETZER
 New Solo Album
‘The Devil Always Collects”

Out 15 September via Surfdog Records

Pre-Order Here

 

 

THE DEVIL ALWAYS COLLECTS:

SIDE A
1 Rock Boys Rock
2. The Devil Always Collects
3. Girl On The Billboard
4. The Living Dead
5. What’ll It Be Baby Doll?
6. Black Leather Jacket
SIDE B
7. She’s Got A Lotta…Soul!
8. Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)
9. A Dude’ll Do (What a Dude’ll Do)
10. Psycho Suzie
11. One Particular Chick

 

“ROCKABILLY RIOT” tour dates are as follows:

Date City Venue
Wednesday, September 27 Red Bank, NJ Count Basie Center for the Arts
Friday, September 29 Mashantucket, CT Foxwoods Resort Casino – Premier Theater
Saturday, September 30 Greensburg, PA The Palace Theatre
Monday, October 2 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
Tuesday, October 3 Cincinnati, OH Taft Theatre
Thursday, October 5 Nashville, IN Brown County Music Center
Friday, October 6 Northfield, OH MGM Northfield Park
Saturday, October 7 Waukegan, IL The Genesee Theatre
Monday, October 9 Madison, WI The Orpheum Theater
Tuesday, October 10 Des Moines, IA Hoyt Sherman Place
Thursday, October 12 Davenport, IA Adler Theatre
Friday, October 13 Minneapolis, MN State Theatre

Brian Setzer Online

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