The Kingbees: The Big Rock

Kingbees_TheBigRockRockabilly revivalists’ 1981 sophomore outing w/bonus tracks

Omnivore’s bonus-laden reissue of the Kingbees debut album is now matched by a reissue of the band’s lesser-known follow-up. Originally released in 1981, the album stalled amid label problems and the band’s breakup. Lead bee Jamie James recorded four more tracks with a new rhythm section, and they’re included here as bonuses along with fresh liner notes, photos and a period press release. As on their debut, the band remained grounded in rockabilly, but never allowed themselves to become enslaved by retro fashion. Their goal was to make “short, snappy and punchy rock ‘n’ roll songs,” and though James, bassist Michael Rummans and drummer Rex Roberts took inspiration from the stand-up style of rockabilly, they weren’t limited by it.

What’s especially impressive is how the group recorded rump-shaking rockabilly with a crisp ‘80s studio sound, without surrendering to the era’s sterility. James’ original songs thread seamlessly with covers of Charlie Rich, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. The bonus tracks, three originals and a cover of the Burnettes’ “Tear it Up,” were recorded the following year with bassist Lloyd Stout and drummer Jeff Donovan, and appeared briefly as singles on James’ indie label. The extras expand a great album that was saddled with lousy timing. This is an essential companion to the band’s debut, and well worth the shelf (or disk) space of rockabilly connoisseurs. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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