Brian Setzer Orchestra – “Hey, Louis Prima” – (1996)

Guitar Slinger was Brian Setzer’s 1996 album – his second studio album and the one released right before they hit it big in the swing revival craze of the late-1990s. As most of his albums have been, it was a mix of original and covered material. “Hey, Louis Prima” was an original song written by Setzer that shows off his impressive guitar skills. It’s also a bit of foreshadowing as his cover of Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive An’ Wail” would take him to the stratosphere of pop music two years later.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Songs from Lonely Avenue – (2009)

Brian Setzer is a brilliant musician and, somehow, this is his first album made up of entirely original material. He usually stuffs his albums with covers – er, his own take on songs from rockabilly to pop classics. But he has done something wonderful here by writing all his own songs. Listen to this album from start to finish and it will play like a movie. I’ve never listened to anything and thought I was watching a movie with my eyes closed. It’s the perfect score to something from the beautiful genre of film noir. “Lonely Avenue” is one of the best tracks on the album and it sets the mood perfectly. There are plenty of upbeat numbers as well, including the back-to-back “Mr. Jazzer Goes Surfin’” and “Mr. Surfer Goes Jazzin’.” I’ve been meaning to feature this album on the site here since it came out (three years ago!). Well, I finally got around to it.

#58 – Stray Cats – “Stray Cat Strut” – (1982)

“Stray Cat Strut” was Brian Setzer’s second big single. His first was the Stray Cats’ “Rock this Town” which is very reminiscent of a certain Bill Haley song from 1955. The Stray Cats were the first popular Rockabilly group to come along in what had been more than 20 years. And they were it. The Great Rockabilly Revival of the 1980s started and ended with the Stray Cats. Credit to Brian Setzer though, he single-handedly brought about two different revivals almost 20 years apart (see our 90s countdown for “Jump, Jive, An’ Wail”). I love the jazzy delivery of these chorus lyrics: “I don’t bother chasing mice around / I slink down the alleyway looking for a fight / Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night / Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry, / ‘Wild stray cat you’re a real gone guy. / I wish I could be as carefree and wild / But I got cat class and I got cat style.'”

#55 – Brian Setzer Orchestra – “Jump, Jive an’ Wail” – (1998)

Swing revival strikes again! And this was the biggest of them all and rightfully so as it comes from the best possible source. Brian Setzer is an otherworldly musician who does what he wants to do. The fact that this single was a pop smash was coincidental. Sure, it was a cover of a Louis Prima song – and most of his songs are covers or ‘new takes on old songs’ but that shouldn’t take away from the credit Setzer deserves for his talent and for being just plain cool. I won’t go into it here, but let’s just say there is plenty more Brian Setzer to be featured on this site.