Under Review: The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Songs From Lonely Avenue

As much a fan as I am of Brian Setzer and his various projects, I’ll be the first to admit that he hasn’t released a really good album in quite some time.  His recent output with the Orchestra that bears his name has either consisted of gimmicky re-writes of swing and jazz standards, or slickly-produced Christmas music.  Either way, the only decent records of Setzer’s have been his more rockabilly-leaning solo albums (see 2001’s Ignition! and 2005’s tribute to Sun Records, Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1).  Thankfully, Setzer has kicked the Orchestra back into gear with a great new collection of tunes: Songs From Lonely Avenue.  Hearkening back to the days of the Orchestra’s smooth-yet-spunky debut, Lonely Avenue features elegant arrangements (“Lonely Avenue,” “My Baby Don’t Love Me Blues”) as well as high-octane jump swing (“Dead Man Incorporated,” “King Of The Whole Damn World”).  Though Setzer himself sounds a little more worn out than on previous releases, his guitar playing is as impressive as ever.  Perhaps the greatest guitar work of his Orchestra career comes in the form of the two-part instrumental toward the album’s middle.  “Mr. Jazzer Goes Surfin’” is a boogie-woogie jazz guitar piece, drawing as much from Charlie Christian as from Louis Jordan’s guitarist, Carl Hogan.  Following that is “Mr. Surfer Goes Jazzin’,” which is more of a classic Setzer rockabilly freakout than a Dick Dale put-on.  The two pieces naturally show off Setzer’s versatility, but they also act as an aural bridge between the two segments of his career: the Stray Cats to the Orchestra.  What really makes Songs From Lonely Avenue so strong is the confidence that Setzer and the Orchestra exhibit through each track.  While previous albums suffered from trying too hard to be clever, Lonely Avenue get things just right.  The barreling “Trouble Train” plays like an updated version of “Mystery Train,” but it’s completely original.  The shortest song, “Love Partners In Crime” really sounds like Sinatra’s “I’m Gonna Live ‘Till I Die,” but, again, it’s no rewrite.  Knowing that Setzer is capable of making albums like this, the wait for Songs From Lonely Avenue has been a trying one, but one that has paid off very well in the end.

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~ by E. on October 21, 2009.

One Response to “Under Review: The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Songs From Lonely Avenue”

  1. Great review. Right on target.

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