Various artists, Virginia Rocks! (SPJ)
“Except for the work of its major practitioners, [rockabilly] holds up… poorly today,” Peter Guralnick opined in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll. To which I respond—Bull. Shit. Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis were great, but if you want proof that there was more to rockabilly than that, you don’t have to look any further than JSP’s Virginia Rocks!, an epic two-CD, 61-track reissue of prime Old Dominion hillbilly rock. Gene Vincent, Link Wray, and a young Patsy Cline are the only “major” rockabilly cats represented, but their sides are far from the only highlights. B-lister Janis Martin swings her big, sexy voice around “Let’s Elope Baby” while a barrelhouse piano tinkles away in the background; bluegrass veteran Mac Wiseman gets down with the kiddies for an easy, shoulder-shrugging lope through the chestnut “Step It Up and Go,” the virtually unknown Rock*A*Teens stomp viciously enough for any punk-rock aficionado on “Woo-Hoo” while singer Jess Duboy spookily yodels the titular phrase. The remastering by Chris King sounds great throughout, and the package itself is lovingly annotated and arranged in chronological order, from the offensively crazed yawps of Buster Pack’s 1952 pre-Elvis “Indian Boogie” to the out-of-date, off-key warbling of Carl Tyndall’s jazzy “Hillbilly Boogie.” With any luck at all this will be just the first of many JSP rockabilly reissues demonstrating that Peter Guralnick doesn’t always know what he’s talking about.