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Not Fade Away - Reissue Review from Issue #32 March-April 2001

Billy Hancock & The Tennessee Rockets

Shakin' That Rockabilly Fever (Bluelight)

Between 1978 and 1982, the Washington, D.C., area was a breeding ground for the disease of rockabilly. One of the contagions spreading the fever was Billy Hancock, an area native who knocked out several twang-laden LPs and singles that boldly bared their country and hillbilly influences, yet emerged distinctly original. Hancock has since returned to his jazz roots and now only tolerates his rockabilly past.

So imagine how hair stands on end opening a package from Finland, of all places, and finding this 17-cut compilation of 1978–81 Hancock tunes, including eight singles for Ripsaw Records, an entire Solid Smoke label LP (a French-only release), and one unreleased song. Helsinki-based Bluelight Records thought enough of Hancock to digitize the work and present it in a modest package, complete with liner notes, recording histories, discography and snapshots.

The disc starts fittingly with the ringing tones and drumstick clicks of “The Boogie Disease”, a powerful call-and-response party tune that sprints along Mitch Collins’ piano and Bob Newscaster’s gilded guitar leads. Along the way there is the hiccuppy “Knock-Kneed Nellie”, Arthur Crudup’s “Do It If You Wanna” channeled through Carl Perkins, the rolling lyric of “Little By Little”, and the novelty numbers “Christmas In Tennessee” and “Redskins Rock ‘N’ Roll”, a paean to the football team.

The strongest cut in the bunch is the Robinson/Heath composition “Please Don’t Touch”. Hancock’s muscular arrangement is built on Newscaster’s impossibly catchy guitar lick and the haunting backing vocals in the verse. It’s a tune that refuses to grow stale with repetition.

Among the musicians on the disc are Tex Rubinowitz, who co-wrote several songs with Hancock (and deserves a compilation of his own), bassist Bryan Smith, drummer Jeff Lodsun, and guitarist Evan Johns sitting in on one of two versions of “I’m Satisfied”.

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Originally Featured in Issue #32 March-April 2001

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