FULL THROTTLE ROCKABILLY
Ruby Dee, guitarman Jorge Harada and crew serve up 200 proof rockabilly. Their brand of music is not Stray Cats glitz or Reverend Horton Heat psychobilly; instead, this is traditional rockabilly â€“ a little bit country, a little bit R&B and the blues, all finger-snapping good.Â Basedâ€“ not surprisinglyâ€“ from Austin, Texas, the band is tight, soulful, and hot. RubyÂ Dee Philippa writes the songs and fronts the band, singing with a stone-classic rockabilly voice that conjures images of Wanda Jackson and impossible beehive â€™dos.
The rhythm team includes drummer Scott L. French and bassist Dylan Cavaliere. Dave Leroy Biller adds console steel guitar on the title track while a handful of other guests spice things up with sax, piano, and even strings on the standout â€œCamille.â€Â Harada blows the doors off these 12 originals and single, Jack Scott cover. He plays electric, baritone, and acoustic guitars; slides bottleneck on the title tune; and drops in swooping B-bender on â€œI See Greenâ€.
The set sizzles from the get-go. The opener, â€œNot For Long,â€ rides atop an R&B-fueled rhythm riff that perfectly offsets Ruby Deeâ€™s twang; Haradaâ€™s solo is accented by a glorious, deep echo.Â â€œCan You Spare A Match?â€ is â€™40s big-band chic with rollicking piano, sax, and Harada starring on a solo that would make Cliff Gallup green with envy.
â€œCamilleâ€ is a master- piece: part â€™50s ballad, part Stones by way of â€œDead Flowers.â€ Driven by a wistful, nostalgic melody, Ruby Deeâ€™s vocals are once again stellar, backed by well-arranged strings, and Haradaâ€™s bari-guitar solo.Â The title track is a dark-toned honky-tonk jewel. Harada trades reverb-drenched fills with noir steel licks thanks to Biller, crafting a wonderfully mysterious mood.
Rockabilly can get trapped in its own narrow groove to the point where it becomes cliched, if not downright kitschy. The Snakehandlers prove the exception. Ruby Deeâ€™s songwriting hits on classic genre themes, but with smarts and poetry that raise the bandâ€™s songs above the norm. And then thereâ€™s that voice. The rhythm section is tight, yet still stylish and swingingâ€“ a rare, tough combo.Â And Harada astonishes throughout. Playing a combo of Gretsch archtops and classic Teles, he tosses off Gallup licks, Travis-picking clusters Ã la the late, great Scotty Moore, and other riffs that remind you of Grady Martin and Carl Perkins. But through it all, heâ€™s his own man, making the music original.Â Youâ€™ll want this disc.
â€“ Michael Dregni
Vintage Guitar Magazine Hitlist Tearsheet- Bismarck, ND
RUBY DEE AND THE SNAKEHANDLERS Little Black Heart
(Catty Town Records) 2016