When it comes to the Stray Cats, Brian Setzer and Slim Jim Phantom probably get the most attention, but there’s also Lee Rocker spinning his giant upright bass on stage or in the videos. Aside from the Cats, Rocker has played with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, and John Fogerty. In 1982, Rocker and his father Stanley Drucker (a classically trained clarinetist) received Grammy nominations — a familial honor that has only occurred twice in the history of the Grammys. For 2021, the prolific bassist unleashes a solo album called Gather Round.
Featuring 10 no nonsense rockers, Rocker is joined by guitarist Buzz Campbell, drummer Larry Mitchell, and keyboardist Matt Jordan. The title track is a roiling upbeat slapper about “having a rockabilly soul” and getting on the road to prove it. Most of the songs on Gather Round were written by Rocker when he and his wife Deborah hit the states in an Airstream. The 20-state trip provided some introspection and lots of fun to the lyrics.
“Everybody Wants To Be A Cat” is a delicious 50s jazz send-up, while “Pickin’ And Grinnin” comes off as an Elvis sound-alike with an overt political message. “When Nothing’s Going Right,” the album’s centerpiece, is a Rocker wrote for the Stray Cats’ 2019 album 40. The versions don’t stray too far from one another. Dressed as a 20s barrelhouse with what sounds like tap piano and banjo, Robbie Robertson’s “Ophelia” ends this collection.
The whole album pretty much ends as it begins: Upbeat, punchy, and, at a running time of less than 30 minutes, unable to overstay its welcome. Inducted into the Bass Player Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, Lee Rocker merrily slaps his way into 2021 with Gather Round.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.