Sounding like a lost soundtrack to a (if you can believe it) grittier, darker, crazier Quentin Tarantino flick, Dexter Romweber’s new album Blues that Defy My Soul has dropped on us like a rock n’ roll H-bomb, and that H stands for hot! Coming out of the Flat Duo Jets, a legendary guitar and drum rockabilly combo, Dexter has set out on his own to spread the rock from sea to shining sea, and nothing says `America’ like rock n’ roll.
There aren’t too many guys like Dex out there making the kind of music that he does. I know from my own experiences from living both on the West and East coasts that the old rock n’ roll sounds that make up Romweber’s influences are far more prevalent on the East coast, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states. Romweber is from North Carolina and was featured in the documentary Athens, Georgia: Inside / Out, so it figures. My friend Brian was a prime example of that influence.
Brian wears no piece of clothing made after 1959. Old record albums of Keely Smith and Frank Sinatra adorn his attic apartment walls. He plays a cherry baby blue Fender Jazzmaster guitar. Sweet. And while he has a somewhat anachronistic affinity for punk, he truly `lives’ in the fifties. Smoking unfiltered Lucky Strike cigarettes and ashing into an old stand-up quad hotel ashtray, I can picture Brian listening to this album, nodding his head between drags, and occasionally taking a healthy swig of whiskey and ginger ale. Brian loves rock n’ roll and I simply have to send this record to him. That is, if he has a CD player.
Blues that Defy My Soul is a kick-ass rock n’ roll, rockabilly, blues, country, surf, and yes, somewhat of a prehistoric punk record. Take the smoke-tinged raspy voices of John Reis, Tom Waits, and the Reverend Horton Heat, add the nitro-burnin’ guitar of Brian Setzer or Eddie Cochran, and finish it off with the quality songwriting of Buddy Holly and you have Dexter Romweber.
In a way this record made me kind of sad, missing the days of those unfiltered Luckies, playing pool at Don’s Billiard Hall with at least twelve bottles of Yeungling, sitting in the comfy pea-green chair from the Salvation Army, sipping whiskey, and listening to great rock n’ roll music. Luckily, Dexter Romweber brings that feeling back in a big way.
Playing the same guitar that he started out with 18 years ago, Romweber has a healthy respect and love of the past. He knows when he hears good music, knows how to play good music, and knows how to honor the history of his craft.
Under his name on the album cover, you’ll find the words “Solo! Duo! Trio!” They are there to let us know that some of the songs are done by Dexter alone, most feature the drumming of Sam Laresh, replacing longtime Flat Duo Jets partner Crow, and some of the songs feature third member Andrew Maltbie on bass. I don’t know if there was an awkward honeymoon period with the new members, but after having played music with drummer Crow for twenty years, Sam Laresh has filled in nicely, playing with skill and aggression.
Because there aren’t that many bands, at least successful ones, playing this kind of music today, I didn’t quite know what to make of the CD when I got it in my grubby little hands. Now I can tell you that I am ecstatic and elated that Dexter is keeping the tradition alive and the CD has transported me, not only back to Newark, Delaware and that cramped little attic, but also back to the rock years of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, and the Coasters. Dexter can stand alongside them with pride and can rock with the best of them.
Various Artists – Pulp Fiction
Reverend Horton Heat- It’s Martini Time
The Stray Cats- Built for Speed