Professing himself a blues boy at heart, ex-Stray Cats bassist Lee Rocker (Drucker) thumped his tea chest and sang in Blue Blue — a likable, sharp blues trio with California guitarist Mike Eldred and drummer Henree DeBaun (aka Henree DeLuxe, once a new wave rocker in Unit III With Venus). Sparely recorded in Memphis with the Memphis Horns, as well as guest shots by local guitar god Scotty Moore and English keyboard great Ian McLagen, the distressed originals and genuine antiques (Jimmy Reed’s “Shame Shame Shame,” Paul Williams’ “The Hucklebuck”) on Lee Rocker’s Big Blue receive a less-stylized Chicago blues treatment than the Stray Cats’ rockabilly revitalization — and achieve concomitantly blander results. Though Rocker’s artless singing is adequate, and his skilled cohorts work up a good club-sized sweat (ironically sounding at times like rockabilly cats playing urban blues, as the Stray Cats used to do on occasion), the album never shakes off the air of an ambitious outsider trying to be something he ain’t.
Atomic Boogie Hour, made in Texas with the Memphis Horns (again) and a keyboard sessioneer, is a whole lot better. Limiting the covers to Chuck Berry’s “Beautiful Delilah” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Call Me the Rocker (Good Rockin’ Daddy),” the album tightens the band’s sound into Chicago coffee — freshly ground and firmly packed. Eldred kicks out impressive junior Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar panache, and Rocker sings in a comfortable voice that gets the job done. There’s little chance anyone will mistake this for the real thing, but blue-eyed blues boys have done a whole lot worse by uptown Saturday night music.