Dexter Romweber / Dexter Romweber Duo

Is That You in the Blue?

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On their sophomore Bloodshot entry, the Dex Romweber Duo (Dexter on guitar and his sister Sara on drums) build on their debut for the label, 2009's Ruins of Berlin. On that record, Dex indulged his deep love for classic American jazz and pop with a few trademark, off-the rails rockabilly numbers tossed in for good measure. On Is That You in the Blue? the Romwebers team once again with producer Rick Miller at Southern Culture on the Skids' studio in North Carolina, with a handful of guests including semi-permanent bassist Matt Brandau, Django Haskins on lap steel and aocustic guitar, Bob Pence on sax, and Miller and even Southern Culture vocalist Mary Huff helping out. On over 14 songs -- originals and expertly selected covers -- Romweber rips through rusty switchblade rockabilly, in your face swaggering blues, psychobilly ballads, warped tangos, dementia-laden pop songs, and more. The set kicks off at 100 miles an hour with "Jungle Drums," a two-minute exercise in distorted rockabilly excess with help from Miller's guitar and Pence's honking sax. Haskins helps out on his vengeance ballad "The Death of Me" (which would have been right at home in any hardboiled flick from the late '40s or early '50s that was set in a roadhouse). "Gurdjieff Girl" may invoke the religious philosopher, but the sound is pure surf soundtrack. The cover of underground rockabilly legend Big John Taylor's obscure "Nowhere" is as full of dread, anger, and brokeness as the original; Dex's singing has never been better. The reading of Billy Boy Arnold's "I Wish You Would" has the Romwebers raving up the original's tempo and dramatic flare into a backseat strutter. "Homicide" is Dex solo, covering South Dakota rockabilly legend Myron Lee's most infamous tune. The shimmering "Brazil" is a romantic original sung Rockin' Conway style, with a double-time shuffle fueled by the bass and drum rhythm section. The title track features Dex on organ and guitar in a beautful, swooning, bitter, Jack Scott-esque, brokenhearted ballad, with the best kiss-off line Romweber's ever written. "Climb Down" is a rock & roll instrumental screamer complete with bleating saxophone. Killer covers of tunes by unsung rockabilly pioneers Benny Joy and Shari K. Sheeley -- "I Remember Darling" and "Think of Me" -- with dramatic, non-ironic croons, and a shambolic reading of Johnny Cash's "Redemption" close out Is That You in the Blue? Its versatility is quite dazzling, making it one of the best records in the Romweber catalog.

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