THE SHREDITUDE OF BRIAN SETZER
When I think of true musical inspirations, one name always comes to mind. The god of rockabilly, the king of big band revival, the original stray cat, Brian Setzer. Nobody comes close to emulating the technical skill, fast paced style and goddamn badass attitude that emulates early American rock ‘n’ roll like Mr. Setzer.
For those of you that aren’t guitar players or rockabilly fans, you probably know him from his first band, the Stray Cats. Maybe the song “Stray Cat Strut” rings a bell? If not that, maybe you’ll recognize “Rock this Town.” In the space of those two songs and a couple other less well-remembered hits, Brian Setzer brought rockabilly back to radio airplay and mainstream popularity in the age of synthesizers and new wave that we call the 1980s. After a decade long stint in the most popular neo-rockabilly band on the planet, he didn’t fade into obscurity or star in a VH1 reality show like some once famous musicians from the 1980s. Instead, not content to revive just one genre, he revived another. In the early to mid 1990s, he brought back swing music and put it on the airwaves once again, spearheading a big band revival movement with his new band, the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
But of course, his personal accomplishments are secondary to his sheer skill and mastery of the guitar. A guitar is one of those instruments that millions of people can play, many are damn talented at, but only a few can be considered a master of. Between his bluesy riffs, frequent fills, frantic solos filled with bends and catchy refrains, he strikes the perfect balance. When you listen closely to a Brian Setzer solo, you’ll know it because you’ll surely be impressed simultaneously by his melodic ear, fast-paced technical skill, and downright cool retro style of playing.
The lesson to learn from listening to Brian Setzer is not that you suck at playing the guitar and will never be as good as him (As I have often felt myself). It’s that with enough talent, a good idea and effort, artists will prosper without forcing themselves to align with the trends of the times. Take it from the man who brought back ‘50s style rock ‘n’ roll and big band music, two genres that were left for the vultures, no sort of music is dead until people stop playing it with voracious energy.