As musical evolution progresses beyond Generation X, it makes nearly perfect sense that a guitarist who played in punk bands in the '80s and graced the goth scene in the '90s would turn to rockabilly in the new millennium. And so it went with Jack Coray, the frontman and lead-guitar whiz for Kentucky psychobilly-meets-swing quartet Rumble Club.
According to Coray's quotes on the band's Web site, his interest in guitar began while watching his grandfather play Chet Atkins and Hank Williams songs on a '56 Gretsch. Coray's own instrumental saga began at the tender age of 12, and he spent many a night out with his punk band Burial Benefits, opening for punk legends such as NOFX, The Circle Jerks, Bad Brains and the Misfits. By 2004, though, he'd caught the rockabilly bug, which tends to infect elder punks, and united with rhythm guitarist Jay "Chewy" Clark, drummer Mark Santoro and upright bassist Kyle Curtis to form Rumble Club.
Rumble Club surfaced on the pomade scene the following year with Rides Tonight, an album which garnered comparisons of Coray's picking technique to the likes of legends Carl Perkins and Duane Eddy. Its 2007 sophomore effort, Gambler's Regret, stepped things up a notch when greaser media such as Car Kulture DeLuxe magazine praised it as a "mini-pulp fiction novel," and likened Coray's deep vocals to a darker version of Johnny Cash, staying true to the rockabilly credo of "fightin', rockin' and lovin'."
The band is based in Covington, Ky., outside Cincinnati. Although there are pockets of rockabilly interest in the U.S., including a small but loyal scene in Pittsburgh (a throng converged on the 31st Street Pub a couple of weeks ago to bid farewell to locals The Legendary Hucklebucks), the real growth market for the genre is burgeoning overseas in Europe and Japan.
But don't take Rumble Club for some kind of musical museum piece, meticulously preserving long-gone history like that big-band orchestra fronted by Brian Setzer. It's more interested in infusing its music with the energy of today's generation, which prefers tempos a bit faster. After all, as Coray says, "Psychobilly is just rockabilly sped up ... [and] I say I'm just an old punkabilly, because my friends back in Utah used to call me [that] due to my haircut. I had rockabilly style, drove a '56 Chevy and played punk-rock music -- hence a punkabilly!"
Rumble Club with Highway 13. 10 p.m. Sat., March 21. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com
- Twang 'n' tats: Rumble Club