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Album: Bop-A-Lena (Bear Family Records, 1990) by Ronnie Self

Ronnie Self is one of the great unknown rockabilly singers. In addition to being a great singer he wrote most of his material himself. Unbelievably he only had one minor hit in the United States with “Bop-A-Lena” in 1958. It is curious, to say the least, that not more people value lyrics like “Oop Scooby Dooby Lena Go Gal Go”. I guess if stuff like this does not catch you straight away, rock 'n' roll is not your thing. Fortunately Ronnie Self enjoyed some success as a songwriter and a latter day career in Europe where he was considered one of the legends of early rock ‘n’ roll. It is therefore fitting that the German label Bear Family Records has issued a compilation of his recordings between 1956 and 1963.

Like many great artists Ronnie Self was a tortured soul. He had a reputation of being wild and rebellious as a youngster and in his later life booze and pills took their toll. Ronnie Self possessed the teenage angst and the desperation that can be heard in a lot of great rockabilly music. I am not saying all his songs conveyed these feelings. He could be very lighthearted and funny as well. Besides, it would not do him justice to consider him solely a rockabilly singer. He was remarkably versatile.

This 30 song CD is the proof. Ronny Self could handle scorching rock ‘n’ roll songs like “Bop-A-Lena”, “Date Bait” and “You’re So Right for Me” second to nobody. Bluesy rockers like “Big Town” and “Rocky Road Blues” he sang with authority. Listen to the classic rockabilly song “Big Fool” to enjoy some great rockabilly style Travis picking. The latter part of the CD is a bit more poppy in nature and contains wonderful songs like “Some Things You Can’t Change” and “Some Other World”. The phrase “Hoo, hoo, some other world” can easily stick in your mind for days. The musicians playing on these sessions are Nashville legends like Grady Martin and Hank Garland on guitar, Floyd Cramer on piano, Bobby Moore on bass and Buddy Harman on drums. All were regulars on recordings of Elvis Presley as well. Need I say more? This stuff is as good as gets and is one CD you cannot be without.

Frederick von Schtupp

Rating: 9 out of 10