Guitar player Chris Casello and singer Bill Alton are the heart of this four-piece 1950s-sounding rock 'n' roll band. The songs are often their own — usually Casello's, but sometimes Alton's, or Casello and Alton's jointly. It doesn't seem quite enough of a compliment to call their songs period-piece knockoffs, and their act is not self-consciously or smugly retro. But plainly their popularity is based on their prodigious talent for conjuring time-warped instant classics that you'll swear you've heard Elvis do.
Casello and Alton are living in a small but real slice of a musical tradition that never quite died, where men exude a kind of strutting, flashy, yet tender and sentimental masculinity. Alton's voice has that swooping catch and a lot of other tricks that began to drop out of sight when the Beatles came on the scene. Casello's lead guitar is like a shower of sparks — colorful, full of energy, and seemingly spontaneous. His tour de force is "Johnny Dynamite," a song that amalgamates all the famous lead guitar riffs from the 1950s and 1960s, but he has plenty of fun creations of his own too, including my favorite, a sound like a cat being stepped on. He sometimes switches between several guitars, including a standing steel guitar, during the same song. It's amazing to see an act this good in a bar with a $3 cover charge and $2 beers.
To be able to have so much fun for so little money and effort is a treat. The Drifters do several gigs a year in Vegas and Nashville, and their new CD, produced in Vegas by Rollin' Rock Records, is their strongest yet. A herd of good dancers follow this band, so be prepared to share the dance floor with accomplished jitterbuggers in period costume.