• Johnny Hatton's Gospel Bop

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    Tribute and cover albums have a general tendency to suck, and to suck hard. More musicians should live by the rule that if a song is good enough to cover, it should be left alone; if I ruled the world, Limp Bizkit would have been publicly hanged for butchering “Behind Blue Eyes”, Britney Spears’ take on the Joan Jett classic “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” would have never made it out of the gate, and don’t even get me started on Megadeth’s “Anarchy In The U.K.”…….

    And so, it was with great trepidation that I finally pressed PLAY to cue up the first track on Johnny Hatton’s new CD, Gospel Bop; a take on the should-never-be-touched classic “I Saw The Light” by God’s gift to not only country music, but music in general, Mr. Hank Williams. After a few worried seconds of the opening, EQ’d to sound like tinny, AM-sounding radio, Hatton and his band proceeded to kick out the jams in a way that would’ve done ol’ Hank proud. With the sacred cow out of the way, I was able to sit back and enjoy the rest of the disc.

    Given Hatton’s roots music background, the rest of the CD is pretty much exactly as it should be; a straight-up mix of rockabilly and country, mildly seasoned with jazz, blues, and of course, gospel influences. Paying tribute to Little Richard, The Atomic 3, and Marty Stuart among others, Gospel Bop is 14 tracks of rockin’ goodness, deviating from the path with a piano-laden rendition of J.T. White’s classic “All is Well”. Especially worth noting is “Shake a Hand”, previously massacred by Paul McCartney; Sir Paul could learn a thing or two from Hatton’s crew.

    Ultimately, what makes Gospel Bop such a success and separates it from predecessors of a similar nature is the talent and spirit of the musicians. The playing on the album is fantastic, with Hatton and fellow Brian Setzer Orchestra alumnus Bernie Dresel laying down a ridiculously tight backbeat for noted guitarist Fino Roverato and steel player Douglas Livingston. Hatton’s voice is perfectly slated for this style of music, and he carries each tune seemingly effortlessly, with a host of other vocalists to back him up. Gospel and other forms of religious music may not be your cup of tea; but by the time the Reverend Hatton closes out the slightly tongue-in-cheek original “What’s It Like In Hell”, you may find yourself a convert.