Yet all of this serves to generate some degree of controversy. What of rock-a-billy. Is it chopped liver? There is room for it all. Rock-a-billy as we generally know it today looks back in celebration of early rock ‘n’ roll. But the problem is that this genre often tries to recreate it note for note. But lets take a broad view. Elvis first emerged as the white country rocker who built his music on Mississippi blues. He is called an innovator. The question is, was the King of Rock’ n’ Roll a rock-a-billy artist when he first plied his craft and began to look for something new? I think not. Elvis and his contemporaries, some might call them Elvis imitators, started something really big in motion. Rock ‘n’ roll. The King is dead, long live the king. This Is Not Dress-up Music So what of rock-a-billy as a dress-up form? Are we to take Brian Setzer to task for his on-stage attire? Is there anything wrong with playing a bright orange Gretsch? Is there any real harm in costuming? This is show business. Elvis gave rise to legions of “Elvistas” as tribute acts–a whole industry of working artists who are in great demand on cruise ships and elsewhere. What of ’50s nostalgia? Marlin Brando in the “Wild Ones.” The cult of the black leather motorcycle jacket. The joy of the pomp. Isn’t this just innocent fun? I say if there is little to rock-a-billy other than empty artifice, then the Horse Cave Trio is to be hailed for not relying on costuming, other than a bit of a working class edge, and more inclined to let the music do the talking. But don’t look for costumes, black leather or cowboy hats. What you will get is a touch of blue collar which is entirely appropriate for the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. Hillbilly rock ‘n’ roll is what the Horse Dave Trio does, and they do it just about better than anybody else. –George Seedorff, Copyright 2012
The Horse Cave trio has taken the Sun sound of old and allows it to catch up to modern times. Horse Cave is not constrained by the past. They work with it, keep the music fresh and new. It’s what they do. There is no fear of engaging in cross-genre excursions. That DeVore and company are a Sun Records inspired band cannot be denied. But while they have been called a rock-a-billy band, I say no. They’re not a dress-up act. Not a nostalgic costume party. As progressives they were sometimes criticized by rock-a-billy purists in the beginning. But they were widely accepted by blues audiences, and on the festival circuit, with a sound that is infused with contemporary rock and country, it is no surprise. Call it Hillbilly music. Hank Williams was that. After 10 years at it, Horse Cave Trio are admired for being loose and forward looking, but also for having the feel of a jam band. They jam out, always looking for new turns. Having won over rock-a-billy audiences by now, what in the final analysis does it matter what to call them other than very good. So call it rock-a-billy if you want to. But they are never a costume group.
The Blog Is has already reported that the Horse Cave Trio’s music is American Music with more than just a mild nod to the South. Kentucky. Memphis. But there’s way more to the story than that. Band leader, vocalist and bass player Ron DeVore began with a rough concept. The idea was to go back in spirit to the Sun Records studio of the early ’50s and revisit the chemistry that produced rock ‘n’ roll in the first place–the marriage of country and blues. But let the music be contemporary, too. Just as Elvis begat rock ‘n’ roll, which begat rock music, so did he and his like-minded cohorts feed and sustain rock-a-billy. As time went on, rock-a-billy has come to be more of an historical form. This while rock ‘n’ roll remained, then and now, capable of growth, change and evolution, if not revolution. Rock as it broke out stayed progressive, has always been able to take on other interpretations. The jam band constantly invents. Rock is here to stay, we hope and believe, and here to change, always. But there is plenty of room for more historical forms as well. Rock ‘n’ roll is therefore active, changeable, while rock-a-billy is much more static and, may I say, conservative. An historical form, just like pre-War acoustic blues. It boils over with excitement and innovation. Where the Horse Cave Trio breaks the mold is in their willingness to make rock-a-billy something new. That is why rock-a-billy may not be the best way to describe them, so let’s call it roots music. Their blues-based electric slide work remains cutting edge, but not at the expense of the tradition of the blues. They and many others like them let the music grow. Reflect on the past, but don’t be constrained by it. Mixing it up with rock they take it to new places. Cross-genre expression is a good thing.