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Johnny Knox revs up

ongtime Atlanta roots-rocking guitarist Johnny Knox feels inspired again, juiced after returning from Vegas, where he played Presley tunes behind "dueling Elvises" at the Las Vegas Raceway. You can hear it in his near-hyper dialogue as he describes his new band, Hi-TEST — even when he talks about the "lost" album, Doin' What It Takes. Recorded in New York with hotshots from the David Letterman and "Saturday Night Live" bands, it sits languishing in limbo on the shelf. The recording is true to his rockin' '50s influences while boasting a fatter approach (three tracks are available on www.JohnnyKnox.com). "I'm held hostage by the record company, but it's better to regret something you've done than something you haven't," he says.

Earlier this year, Knox stumbled into Decatur's Ya Ya's and pitched them on a rockabilly night. "I never really was where I wanted to be rockabilly wise, even though I was with Blacktop Rockets for almost four years," he says. He bumped into bassist Neil Wilson, hired young drummer Capers Olgetree and, before you could say "mystery train," found himself musically revved-up behind a hot yet nameless band. "I didn't want to be known as the Johnny Knox trio again. I wanted to move on to something new, so we're Johnny Knox and Hi-TEST."

The handsome, dark-haired, pompadoured Knox stays flush by teaching guitar and doing electrical work on the side, which frees him to play what he wants, when he wants. Regardless of whether the nearly year-old album is released, Knox is so knocked out with his stripped-down new group, he won't return to its fuller sound: "We've been playing together for about seven months, we're hot and I'm back lovin' music again."

Johnny Knox plays Fri., Nov. 23, at the Star Bar and Thursdays at Ya Ya's.??