Hepcat Makes a Comeback

Brian Setzer knows how to swim against the musical tide. Back in the 1980s, during the early days of the video revolution, he fronted the rockabilly revival band the Stray Cats, a stripped-down trio consisting of three greasy guys playing acoustic standup bass, a minimal drum kit and Setzer's burning lead guitar. This was at a time when his contemporaries were all blow-dried, big-haired pretty boys playing synthesized mush.

After the Stray Cats went their separate ways, Setzer continued to find success in unexpected sonic quarters. During the mid-'90s he put together the Brian Setzer Orchestra. This 16-piece, horn-heavy big band was kicking out swing sounds right out of the 1940s. His slash-and-burn takes on the music of Louis Prima and Louis Jordan came out of the blue to jumpstart an entire movement of swing revivalists. Coming along at a time when the Seattle grunge sound was still dominating the charts, he was clearly fighting a losing battle. But his success with such classics as "Jump, Jive An' Wail," "The Dirty Boogie" and "Sleepwalk" proved he was onto something.

Never content to stay in one place for any length of time, Setzer is now hitting the road with a new band: '68 Comeback Special, a trio shaking it up with a combination of three-part harmonies, straightahead rock 'n' roll, a little banjo and some pedal steel guitar. The rhythm section of Bernie Dreset on drums and Mark W. Winchester on slap-bass join Setzer on a bunch of new hot-rod tunes with such titles as "Hell Bent," "Hot Rod Girl" and "Who Would Love This Car But Me?"

This promises to be a blast, though from anyone but Setzer it would sound presumptuous -- any group with the nerve to name themselves after Elvis Presley's finest moment better have the goods to back it up.