Boppin' Country Billy, The Sun Skippers

The rockabilly band "The Sun Skippers" from Hauptwil, Switzerland were founded in 1993 and played with regularly changing musicians until in 1996, when they finally found the dedicated musicians to work with in the future. In 1998 the band released their first CD single "Long Black Veil" and they introduced their new musical style, which they call "Boppin' Country Billy", a mix of Sun rockabilly, blues bop and country skiffle, mixed with some Cajun drawl vocals. Now, in 2001, they are proud to proud to present their first full length CD.

The artwork of the CD cover is exceptionally beautiful, included is a very nice 8 page booklet too. First thing that struck me when I looked at the tracklisting, was the fact that there are only covers on this CD. Not one selfpenned item, and that's too bad, I like to explore new sounds, songs and ideas. So, let's just see if the Sun Skippers' choice of covers can add anything to existing recordings.

The album starts with Tarheel Slim's classic "Number Nine Train", a good choice indeed, because I can't recall having ever heard a cover of this song before. It's a beautiful song and it deserves to be back on the market again and the Skippers play it in a traditional rockabilly style. If anyone would ask me what Glen Glenn song I like best, it would be "One Cup Of Coffee", great lyrics and an ingenious song, just by its simplicity. This cover version is nice, but to be honest, I'd rather hear the original. Johnny Burnette's "Lonesome Train", cannot ever be topped, many bands have tried though and that is probably the reason that just about every rockabilly fan is very familiar with this song. "Wabash Cannonball" has been released by so many artists over the past 50 years that I wouldn't even know who was actually the first one to record it. It's surely not rockabilly, so this must be the country part from "Boppin' Country Billy", heavily influenced by skiffle.

Buddy Holly's "Midnight Shift" sounds different on this album. That's good, because there ain't no use in copying any song exactly as the original. The bluesy harmonica makes this a refreshing version of the old time classic. Don Gibson's "Sea Of Heartbreak" never was one of my favourites, too much country, but then again, what do I know about country music... No, I like the Skippers' revved up version of Ersel Hickey's "Goin' Down that Road" much better. Or Roy Orbison's "Domino" for that matter! Very cool low down lead guitar.

Eddie Cochran's "Cut Across Shorty" (written by Wayne Walker) and Hank & Eddie's "Latch On" (written by Ray Stanley) are two Cochran songs that tend to be a bit forgotten these days. Very nice to hear them again, instead of all the well known Cochran hits. Next is a nice boppin' billy version of Merle Travis' instrumental "Barbeque Rag", well done, followed by another Buddy Holly classic "Maybe Babe". The Rice Miller (a.k.a. Sonny Boy Williamson II) song "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide" is an uptenpo blues original, and the Sun Skippers turn out to be pretty good with this kinda music, and although it's not rockabilly, it sure does rock!

The last track is an odd duck in the pond. It's a cover of Prince's "Kiss" from 1986. I actually had to look this up, because I know very little about Prince, but one thing I do know is, that he was certainly not a rockabilly man! Well, hold on to your pants, because this Skippers' version is true rockabilly, with a raving lead guitar and a great boppin' slap. This might well be the best song on this album, but that's only my humble opnion.

All in all, this is a nice album, not the greatest, and at times a bit simple, but let's not forget that original rockabilly was just that: simple music with great radiation. The use of a blues harmonica on several tracks gives the sound a nice twitch and I really enjoyed listening to it. Keep on rocking guys!

The Sun Skippers are:
Steve Blaser - Guitars, Blues Harp, Mandolin, Lead Vocals
Tom Hanyecz - Upright Bass, Background Vocals
Paul Leuzinger - Drum, Background Vocals

Contact information:
The Sun Skippers
Weiherwald 1
CH-9213 Hauptwil

Phone: +41-(0)71-4225038

Reviewed by The BlackCat, 2001