DT:      SEPTMBER 19, 2019
The STRAY CATSBrian Setzer (guitar, vocals), Lee Rocker (bass, vocals) and Slim Jim Phantom (drums, vocals)–came back strong this year with red-hot shows and the critically acclaimed 40. It’s their first new album in 26 years and one celebrating the iconic American rock and roll trio’s 40th anniversary. Issued by Surfdog Records and distributed by BMG (CD, vinyl, digital), the album spun off four singles: Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me),” “Rock It Off,” “Cry Danger” and the latest, “Desperado,” described by the Washington Post as an “instrumental that could have been plucked from one of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns” (5/21/19).
“Reverb and tape delay–I love those two sounds,” says Setzer about “Desperado.” I was thinking of a Clint Eastwood movie. He’s in the desert waiting for someone to come over that he could shoot.” The recently released “Desperado” video blends scenes from vintage spaghetti western films and old beach movies for a crazy-fun pop culture mash-up. View the video here.
“I think Brian keeps in mind what everyone’s strengths are,” Slim Jim Phantom told Newsday (5/14/19) about the material on 40. “There’s one track that I was very flattered to hear he wrote for me called ‘Three Times a Charm’ and it was very much him imagining me doing the thing like Gene Vincent had Dickie Harrell do, where the drums answer the singing and part of the riff is the drum part.”
40, released May 24, entered the charts at #1 on the Current Rock chart; #3 on the Indie chart; and #5 on the Billboard Album Sales chart. This marks the group’s highest entries since 1983’s Built For Speed, which was released 36 years ago. American Songwriter declared “The Stray Cats remain a well-oiled machine, as super charged in 2019 as they were 40 years earlier (5/21/19), while All Music noted“Comfortable in their skin and still intoxicated by a big rockabilly beat, the Stray Cats sound vigorous and sly…(5/24/19).”
On the live front, The Stray Cats toured America from August 2-September 1 (presented by SiriusXM) on the heels of June and July overseas shows. The seeds for the reunion were planted in April 2018 when the Stray Cats performed at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend festival. As Lee Rocker told the Washington Post (5/21/19), recalling the moments waiting in the wings before the band walked onstage: “It was just me, Brian and Jim. ‘C’mon Everybody’ on the sound system and 20,000 people and the sound of that crowd. That was really something that I won’t forget. And I don’t even know what it was. But it definitely hit me. It was one of those moments that you know you just swallow and you go, ‘Wow.'”
Here are some of the critical accolades the band received from various publications about their blazing U.S. dates:
“The beauty of this band is, even their new songs sound old. That’s always been by design. So those brand new tracks fit right into the set with ease.”
–Brett Callwood, LA Weekly, 8/30/19
“It’s was definitely a swingin’, rockin’, and shoutin’ of a good time as the sensational, iconic and legendary band the Stray Cats prowled their way to the Greek Theatre on Wednesday night. It’s been a long 40 years since they dropped their first album, In no way, shape or form are the Stray Cats showing any signs of slowing down…”
–Daniel Seyum, Music Connection, 8/30/19
“All three are now virtuosos on their instruments, with Rocker and Phantom weaving together intricate rhythms while Setzer delivers wild guitar solos. And Setzer’s rockabilly croon has only deepened and improved with age, as he showed on their breakout hit ‘Stray Cat Strut’ and a gorgeous version of ‘I Won’t Stand in Your Way.’ The simplicity of their setup makes what they do with songs like ‘Rock This Town,’ which becomes an epic anthem live with solos from Setzer and Rocker, all the more stunning.”
–Glenn Gamboa, Newsday (New York), 8/3/19
“Thanks to Setzer’s wide-ranging guitar vocabulary, the trio has added more ‘abillies’ – jazzabilly, bluesabilly, twangabilly, punkabilly, boogieabilly, surfabilly, swingabilly, even bluegrassabilly. At times Setzer, like Chuck Berry, would switch styles of music in mid-solo Sunday. He truly cut loose on the extended ‘Fishnet Stockings,’ fingers going full speed up and down the fretboard, downshifting to descending lines, jamming in any direction he wanted and, of course, giving Rocker and Phantom moments to solo…
–Jon Bream, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 8/19/19
“The Stray Cats still have the same pedal-to-the-metal energy as ever…Judging from the band’s interaction with each other and the fans, the Stray Cuts were having big fun on the prowl. Notable was Setzer’s guitar playing. Shining through were the subtleties of his jazz and swing-based solo career. Between the straightforward, blues-rooted pentatonic scale, Setzer went beyond his descending fretboard flourishes and tremolo bar bends with jazz runs that rivaled Django Reinhardt.”
— Jeff Elbel, Big Takeover, 8/19/19
“What’s most striking is that Setzer, Rocker, and Phantom are each masters of their own domain. You can’t get enough of Setzer’s sterling-silver, economical turns when a valley opens up. He rips through each stanza, dropping jaws with a wink and a smile. Phantom, of course, standing behind a small kit, muscles the beat poppin’ without reservation or nonsense. Rocker plays the perfect the counterpart, plucking his standup bass with rigid authority and measured flexibility.”
–Shawn Perry, Vintage Rock, 9/2/19
The Stray Cats from L-R: Lee Rocker, Brian Setzer, Slim Jim Phantom
By Russ Harrington
The STRAY CATS, the band that put Rockabilly music back on the record charts in the early ’80s, scored several big hits on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to a striking visual 1950’s style brought “up to date” with exaggerated pompadours and colorful tattoos and as well as genuine musical chops that evoked the best players of rockabilly’s original heyday. Formed by guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer, upright bass player Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom in the Long Island town of Massapequa, NY, in 1979, the trio shared a love for Rockabilly music. After banging around New York for a few months, in the summer of 1980, and seeing a pompadoured kid on the cover of UK magazine NME, they hopped a plane to London where a rockabilly revival movement was just beginning to emerge. Their massive hits and videos include “Runaway Boys,” “Rock This Town,” “Stray Cat Strut” “(She’s) Sexy + 17,” and “I Won’t Stand in Your Way.”
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