It’s not every band has its own trademark tour car, but Voodoo Swing does. And what a car! A 1969 Lincoln Continental. Crazy thing’s as long as two of today’s cars and weighs three times as much. This car’s so cool the band had to write a song about it and include it on their great new CD release, Keep On Rollin’.
I’ve been following Voodoo Swing from afar since I discovered them when their new CD came out back in May. I followed their European tour exploits over the summer and their trips around the Western US since. Based out of Phoenix, Arizona, these guys get around and have been around. And they’ve had a 20-year-long love affair with rockabilly music and the rockabilly scene.
As a result of the boys being picked up by Nervous Records back in the early 1990s, I feel akin to them. My old band, Kevin Fayte and Rocket 8, had our 1985 release, Ridin’ in a Rocket picked up by Nervous back in the late 80s. Ah, but these guys took it much farther than we ever did!
So, it’s with those “connections” that I’ve been looking forward to laying my hands on Keep on Rollin’. And now that I have it, I can’t stop listening to it. I knew that would happen. Voodoo Swing takes traditional rockabilly and gives it thoroughly modern roots twist. Occasionally they push things toward psychobilly territory, but they never take it all the way there. It’s more like revved up rockabilly. But whatever you call it, it’s cool. Very cool.
The band is made up of Paul “Shorty” Kreutz on guitar and vocals, Leeroy Nelson on drums (and hollerin’, as the liner notes say), and recent addition Wesley “Sparky” Hinshaw on Dawghouse bass. Together the three of them (with the occasional help from a guest musician or two) make a big, fat, tight, rock and roll sound.
Shorty’s guitar work is a joy to listen to and he really shows off with the instrumental “Hittin’ on all Eight” where he plays some great classic country-style leads mixed in with pure rock and roll. Just like rockabilly was meant to be!
Leeroy nails it with his drum work throughout the record and truly has a feel for rockabilly that lots of drummers never quite perfect. It’s easy to think of rockabilly as “simplistic” music. After all, three instruments playing three chord songs. How hard can it be? But anyone who’s ever actually played the music quickly finds out that it isn’t nearly as easy as you might first think. I’ve heard lots of drummers try to play rockabilly music. And I’ve heard lots of drummers who just couldn’t pull it off. Not that they were bad drummers. They just didn’t have the feel for rockabilly. Nelson? Man, he’s got it and he uses it to drive the band through each cut with perfect timing and great rockabilly technique.
I particularly like Hinshaw’s bass playing. He’s got slap technique that lots of guys can only wish they had. But he doesn’t overdo it like so many players do. He knows when to slap and has worked out percussive rhythms that compliment Nelson’s drum beat nicely. He’s not trying to outdo anyone; he’s just putting the notes where they belong and the string snaps where they should go. And his bass just plain sounds great. The perfect mix between the slap and the true, hollow sound of the notes. I wish I could play bass like that!
The record itself, released on Electric Lotus Label, is strong from beginning to end. Even the last three songs, which were recorded almost 15 years earlier (with bassist J.R. “Junior” Ruppel) keep up the record’s frenetic pace.
The record starts out with the title cut which itself starts with a swampy guitar riff that sets the tone right off. Kreutz rocks through with his dirty Gretsch while Hinshaw kicks in with his wonderful-sounding bass. “Keep on Rollin’” is a great song and the perfect opener for the record. It’s overflowing with attitude. “Keep on rollin’, I got it tattooed on my chest, keep on rollin’, well I ain’t better, I’m the best!” What more needs to be said?
A western swing influenced “Hillbilly Rock n’ Roll” comes next and features harmony vocals from Bindi Baby that work perfectly with the swing feel of the tune. Bindi makes another appearance later as she takes over lead vocal duties on another western swing number “18 Wheels” and she really does the song proud. Wyatt Maxwell adds the steel guitar work that makes the song totally authentic. Meanwhile, Shorty plays great western guitar during the lead break on the song. If the band hadn’t gone the rockabilly route, they surely could have made their mark with this type of western swing.
“Quit Jivin’ Me” veers a little further off of the rockabilly path as it evokes the feel of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s electric Texas blues. But the band brings it right back to rockabilly when they kick into “Voodoo Continental,” the story of touring from town to town, show to show in one of the most distinctive tour vehicles this side of 1960.
Toss in a tribute to all the great west-coast rockabilly and rockabilly-influenced musicians that have made their mark in the past 30 years and a somewhat perplexing ode to the eight-minute cigarette and you’ve got a complete package of rockabilly and roots music that rocks from beginning to end.
I knew I would be a fan of these guys as soon as I heard them for the first time somewhere online. And I knew I would dig this record. I’m glad to say that Keep on Rollin’ is everything I’d hoped it would be!