Johnny Spazz Hatton




Johnny Hatton's New CD Gosple Bop

Gospel Bop

Review by Testify-Billy

I was wonderin’ when this was finally hitting the streets! I guess they were waitin’ for the right talent to come along and shoot the artwork! Fantastic photography, Andi. I love the panoramic gatefold shot. I believe I recognize a few characters within!

Love the sound, love the harmonies! In addition to the tight harmonies, there’s a couple of tracks featuring David Jackson on contrabass, giving it a tasty Jordanaires sound. There’s a couple of times where it might be a litte buried I the mix, but I love that it’s there at all.

The album is heavy on Billy Bop. It’s not just a rockabilly effort. It has everything from Hank Williams to Rockabilly to the Allman-esque opening of “Come to Jesus” (though Bernie seems to be channeling drumming legend, Steve Gadd, on that one) to the biting wit of the “bonus track”- “What’s It Like in Hell.” Shoot, Spazz gives you the names of the artists who’ve inspired hi on each of the tracks in the liner notes, noting influences of Hank, Marty Stuart, Grandpa Jones and Allison Krauss. He cites Little Richard as an influence on the classic, “Shake a Hand.” I’m aware of Little Richard’s version, but actually prefer this one, with the Smiley Lewis – Fats Domino piano and one of the more impassioned vocal performances from Hatton on the entire album. Most of the other tunes keep a pretty rockin’ pace, and when you consider the terrific harmonies, there isn’t a lot of room for John to stretch out vocally. While slap-back and harmonies rule over most of the CD, John delivers every lead vocal with clarity and conviction.

You hear Bernie, you hear Spazz, and one has to wonder, do you miss Brian Setzer? In a word, no. First of all, this is not really a guitar slinger’s showcase, though Fino Roverato does a mighty fine job on guitar. The instrumentation is completely different from a Setzer setting, with Spazz playing violin/fiddle on a number of tracks, while Douglas Livingston’s steel guitar work really fills out the sound. In places it reminds me of Big Sandy’s Fly-Rite Boys, although given it’s a Gospel record, I’d call ‘em the “Fly-Righteous” Boys. Aside from that unforgettable backbeat, it’s nothing like a Brian Setzer record. Spazz has his own unique voice and vision for this album, and I couldn’t be more proud.

For those of you who may not consider yourself religious or would normally veer away from gospel music, I would still
encourage you to check out “Johnny Hatton’s Gospel Bop.” You don’t have to be religious to appreciate things of beauty created by those inspired by their religious convictions. Many fine works of art enjoyed by countless believers, agnostics, atheists, and others have been created by someone motivated by their faith. This album may not rank up there with the Sistine Chapel, but it’s certainly worth checking out by fans of The Beat as well as The Beatitudes.

I would not let the “gospel” in “Johnny Hatton’s Gospel Bop” scare you off this album. The music absolutely moves you the instant you hear it, and the preaching will reach those who are ready to hear it. The rest of the audience will dig it for the sheer joy of the music. It’s always a pleasure to hear Bernie Dresel. Bernie and Spazz together keep the album jumpin’ start to finish, with the exception of a couple of more introspective tunes, such as “Soul of a Man Never Dies,” “Come to Jesus” and “All Is Well,” which features a moving lead vocal from John’s wife, Carol Hatton.