Review Summary: Brian Setzer delivers his best retro sound yet.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
Swing had its fifteen minutes of fame back in the late 90's, but that hasn't stopped retro king Brian Setzer from continuing to produce out of time music with his big band. Songs From Lonely Road is a concept album, a soundtrack to a noir movie that doesn't exist. The concept works in Setzer's favor, tying the songs together with a sound and identity that previous albums have lacked. Veteran film composer Frank Comstock is on board to provide horn arrangements, helping Setzer to create his first album of all original material, and the best album recorded with the orchestra.
"Trouble Train" is a blistering two-bit blues with searing horns and angular riffs pouring from Setzer's Gretsch guitar. Each song works as a scene in the movie, telling a story through the sounds, always maintaining the dark noir feel. These songs are the most focused, most accomplished compositions of Setzer's career. His guitar playing has always been stellar, but he finally has the songs to accompany his virtuosity. "Trouble Train", "Dead Man Incorporated", and "Love Partners In Crime" all have engaging melodies that bear repeated listening. The drawn-out title track is a confident piece of old-school songwriting, while "Dimes In The Jar" is an up-tempo, rocking blues song.
Even the three instrumental pieces work well within the confines of the album. "Mr. Jazzer Goes Surfin'" and "Mr. Surfer Goes Jazzin'" are mirror images, playing well off each other, while "Elena" caps the album was a fret-burning workout on acoustic guitar.
Songs From Lonely Avenue isn't an album for everyone. It is a highly stylized piece of work that can't be taken apart piece by piece. There is no "Jump Jive And Wail" to be found here. An obvious single would work against the cohesion this album presents, its obvious strength. This album is the best album yet from Setzer, and makes a compelling case that swing might be due for another turn in the spotlight.