As fun as the lightweight Stray Cats could be, the retro-rockabilly trio never quite felt right. While undeniably catchy, the band's tunes felt contrived and borrowed at times, with a smidgen of pop added to their updated sound to attract a younger, broader audience. That might explain why the band flamed out in 1984 after a few short years in the spotlight.
Cats bassist Lee Rocker, however, returned to his roots with the Black Top release of Big Blue in 1994. Rocker, born Lee Drucker in Long Island in 1961, grew up immersed in the blues of Muddy Water and rockabilly of Carl Perkins. In other words, the real deal. Over the course of his next six solo albums, the now-Orange County-based Rocker has written many memorable originals, all played with the heart, soul and conviction of his roots-rockin' predecessors.
Released earlier this week, the brand-new Racin' the Devil—his first for the blues-based Alligator Records—finds Rocker roaring at full throttle through such numbers as "Race Track Blues" and "Ramblin'." And his cover of Carl Perkins' lost chestnut "Say When" is as heartfelt a tribute as you'll ever hear. The only dud—fittingly, really—is a reworking of "Rock This Town," the Brian Setzer-penned Stray Cats tune.
Expect lots of grease and sweat to fly when Rocker and his band—featuring ace guitarist Brophy Dale—hit the Galaxy stage Friday night. Bear in mind, this authentic, American roots music ignites when delivered in front of an audience. But please, no Cats allowed.
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Lee Rocker, Southland, Graceland Mafia, and Shari Puorto & Flatfoot perform at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.galaxytheatre.com. Fri., 8 p.m. $15. All ages.