Le grand Mac
Rockabilly Uprising: The Best of Mac Curtis
Rollin' Rock/HighTone Records
With this disc, Bedford resident Mac Curtis joins Ronnie Dawson and the newly re-emergent Gene Summers as the third part of the North Texas rockabilly trinity--no offense meant to lesser-known lights like Groovy Joe Poovey and the late Johnny Carroll. Curtis got the cat music bug a bit earlier than most of his confederates, and as a result his music always had a bit more obvious "western" influence, from the pop flavor dominant in Texas before Elvis changed everything.
The material on Rockabilly Uprising reflects that, even though it comes from three albums cut for "Rockin'" Ronnie Weiser's Rollin' Rock label in the early '70s (for Curtis' roots, you'll have to turn to the hard-to-find original King singles or the no-less-easy-to-locate collection Blue Jean Baby, released on the Charlie label in the early '90s). Assisted by Ray Campi, Curtis redid some of his King cuts ("If I Had Me a Woman," "Grandaddy's Rockin'") and performed a bunch of new material.
As tasty as a fried-banana-and-peanut-butter sandwich, the cuts from these albums--never widely available in the States--stand toe-to-toe with anything being produced today, including the work of Dawson or Summers. Campi handles most of the instruments on most of the tracks, and behind the smoke and flash of his playing burns the fire of a true believer. Curtis himself has a vocal delivery that recalls mid-career Elvis, gruffer than the boyish Dawson and rougher than the smooth Summers.
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Curtis shows his pop-crooner side on songs like "I'd Run a Mile to You" and "Turn to Me" (which features a sax solo by Billy Zoom of X), and turns up the tempo for caffeinated rave-ups like "Good Rockin' Tomorrow" and "How Come It?" Although most of his tunes are hymns to music ("Good Rockin' Tomorrow," "You Can't Take the Boogie Woogie Out of Me," "Wake Up Rock 'n' Roll") or women ("Suntan Girl," "Wild, Wild, Women," "Hard Hearted Girl") Curtis is accomplished--and obviously sincere--enough to avoid the yawns that set in when less talented bands try to maneuver through such narrow straits. Listening to Curtis, you never feel limited--or think he is.
Although the original albums were cut in Weiser's living room--with a microphone slung over the door--the original releases were hampered more by the cheap vinyl they were pressed on than any Spartan studio conditions; remixing by Weiser has rescued the material on Uprising. "The sound on this CD is so far above the original quality," Curtis says. "It's sensational--I'm hearing stuff on the album that I'd forgotten was there."
Better late than never.