Charlie Feathers: That Rock-A-Billy Cat (Edsel)
Of all Feathers' latter-day recordings, these are the finest. And,
given that many might find the marvelous Revenant double-set something
of a stretch for the wallet - and, by nature, not so perfectly
programmed - this might well be the best place to start. Not that
you'll be saving any money, mind you. Because once this one’s seeped
its way into your life, you'll just have to find the cash for the
Because there's just no substitute for this man's music…
Admittedly, the title's something of a misnomer. Cut in 1967/9 in
Memphis, less than half of the material here - even by the broadest
definition - could be considered rockabilly. Instead, what we've got
is the pick of Feathers' repertoire - and artistry - as he confronts
the fact that rockabilly is now ancient history, country music is
mainly a bloated & over-orchestrated parody of its formerly lean &
heartbroken self, and that there isn't a label in the country that'll
even consider recording him.
Half-Irish & half-Cherokee by descent - and all bloody-minded
individualist - Charlie wouldn't let that stop him. And, nor would he
tailor his music for the market. In consequence, we've been left
w/this album - originally issued only by the tiny Barrelhouse label in
1979 - documenting his most most country-oriented music since the
Not that this is countrypolitan. Or even Nashville. Because, in some
ways, Feathers' most unique music is the strange halfbreed he
developed between honkytonk & rockabilly - and which is bluesier than
We might, I think, consider the great bluesman Junior Kimbrough the
grandfather of the style - since he taught Charlie how to play guitar,
and there are definite hints of it in some of Kimbrough's recordings.
Whatever the parentage, though, Feathers is the sole full-blown master
of the style. And, here, on tracks such as “Mama Oh Mama” & “Cold Dark
Night”, he fully unveils it for, perhaps, the first time. The music is
so bare-bones that it makes James Brown's leanest 60s work - or even
Johnny Cash - sound positively fulsome. It's damn near purely rhythm.
And yet the choked guitar chords exist on the cusp between blues &
country - while the nervous beat, even on the slowest songs, speaks
directly from the heart of the rockabilly moment.
If you've never heard this music, then you've missed something unique….
John Henry Calvinist