Alt Sounds Review

Rockabilly has always been a bit of a neglected genre; all the early birds in rock incarnated bits and bops of rockabilly in their music – from Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison in the fifties to Shakin’ Stevens and Stray Cats in the seventies and eighties – but most of the time, and despite preceding the more popular rock ‘n roll, it’s always been treated like rock’s little baby brother. A second rockabilly revival seems to be on his way though. With the line between Americana and American rock slowly fading, those living the lives of motor cycles, leather jackets and Brylcreem seem to find their way up again. The specialist record shop still burst with obscure material – recorded during the heydays of the genre that never truly made it past the border of Memphis, Tennessee – and compilations keep on being released. Below the surface, rockabilly is once again about to become a lifestyle, a religion and a form of art. On the surface itself, sad as it may be, you need a torch to find it.

Mike Badger is however no stranger to roots music and starting a rockabilly band twenty-six years into his career only seems natural for the man from Liverpool. Having done folk, country and bluegrass before, his name was first established in the very first incarnation of The La’s (his contributions can be heard on the compilation album ‘The La’s 1984-1986‘) and his pioneering work with the Onset helped popularize Americana ages before the genre found its way to the mainstream in the nineties. Starting a new band once again, Badger decided to go for a rockabilly quartet, a genre he always incorporated in his music anyway.

Having said that, not every song on Mike Badger and his Shady Trio’s debut EP is strictly rockabilly. But then again, rockabilly is a bit of everything; sped up country music, low-key rock ‘n roll, simple love stories and humorous anecdotes and basically, that’s what Badger’s band is all about. You get a bit of Buddy Holly, a bit of Roy Orbison, a bit of Elvis and a bit of the Liverpudlian himself in between as well. ‘I Love my Love’ and ‘Everybody’s Drinking’ are as much pop songs as any yet both sound like something Buddy Holly could have written, ‘Shake It Up’ is Elvis in his pre-fame excitement and ‘The Ten Commandments of Rock’ sparks a humorous tone often found in this part of the music world.

Overall, the lyrics are stylistically simple yet clever for those familiar with the genre and Badger’s backing band – part of bluegrass sensation The Loose Moose String Band – is an absolute delight. Badger’s newly wed band in general sounds like an obscure American band only recently resurrected from the lost tapes of the late Sam Philips and without them, this EP wouldn’t be as shaking, rattling and rolling half as much as it does now.

Mike Badger and his Shady Trio’s debut EP, having been released as a limited edition, and, of course, on vinyl only, seems, due to the band’s low-key performances and the album’s limited release, unlikely to make it to the headlines. It seems all the likelier though that, on the long term, it will help popularize something that was never that popular, yet, at the same time, never really left the building.

Floris Stoter (Alt Sounds)Jan 2011