ALBUM REVIEW Dan Sartain – Lives

Rockabilly had a profound effect on my early teens. There were plenty of tattooed, pompadoured guys (and gals) running around Houston and Austin at the time, bars like the Black Cat Lounge still catered to the demographic, and bowling shirts were a hot thrift store commodity. At the tender age of fourteen I was even recruited to play drums in what was to become a Christian Rockabilly band. Although the style’s appeal faded rather quickly due to my erratic teenage sensibilities, a little piece of it always stayed with me. A few years later there was a Psychobilly bubble that helped perpetuate and commercialize this niche, novelty sub-culture but inevitably popped, leaving a wake of bewildered early-twenty to middle-aged dudes searching for relevancy.
Even the nostalgia eventually wore off for me. The left-over Western shirts haven’t made it out of the closet in years and I can’t even get stoked about the occasional Reverend Horton Heat show. All hope seemed lost. That is, until I heard the latest album from Dan Sartain, game-changer and protégé to the likes of the White Stripes and Rocket From the Crypt. Finally, some Rockabilly I can actually listen to again. Rather than recycle Cash or Williams, Sartain has reinvigorated stripped-down Rock ‘n Roll by fusing it with garage and lending it some relevance in these cynical, skeptical times.
Sartain’s vocals ooze Costello and although some of the lyrics sound a little trite and predictable, there is little to no mention of hot rods or black cats. This album refuses to be a victim or prisoner to the conventional Rockabilly tropes, preferring a fresher approach that may be just what’s needed to pull out those Western shirts once again. Songs like ‘Those Thoughts’ and ‘Voo Doo’ cause an uncontrollable reaction of foot-tapping and even a little hip motion. It’s hard to say whether or not those that have remained true to the culture will be as accepting of this album, as I am, but the conveniently numbered thirteen tracks of Lives are the guilty pleasure closet Rockabillys have been waiting for. –