Dex Romweber Duo: Is That You In The Blue?

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Dex Romweber Duo
Is That You In the Blue?
(Bloodshot Records)
[Rating: 3.5 stars]

Even though his music has recently been revived through Jack White’s endorsement, Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Dex Romweber has been creating original music (with a few obscure covers thrown in for good measure) for the past 35 years. For his two most recent records, Dex teamed up with his sister, Sara Romweber, on drums to create the Dex Romweber Duo. They released their first album, Ruins Of Berlin, in 2009 and they’re back this year with more of the same old school rockabilly that has made Dex an underground icon for the past 35 years.

Like almost all of Romweber’s albums, Is That You In the Blue? finds itself somewhere in between a David Lynch and a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, with an obvious nod to the golden age of rock and roll. For this album, DRD took elements of surf rock, rockabilly, Americana, country, blues, punk and even a little Christian rock to spice things up.

Even though the album does span several different genres, all of these genres had their heyday 60 years ago, so it’s hard not to pigeonhole his music into one broad category of “old sounding.” This vague moniker, however, deprecates the fact that Romweber is writing great songs, no matter how archaic they sound.

The songs range from raucous rockers (“Jungle Drums”), to macabre ballads (“Nowhere”), to virtuosic surf rock instrumentals (“Gurdjieff Girl”). “Jungle Drums” rips open the album with its heavy beats, jangly-yet-distorted guitars and a gust of saxophone following Romweber’s meandering guitar solo. As the name suggests, the drums play a large role in this song, and even though she’s a spindly doll of a girl, Sara Romweber kicks ass behind the kit.

The biggest surprise on the album was the titular track, “Is That You In the Blue?” which a gorgeous little number with a droning organ and Romweber’s ever present reverb-drenched guitar strums. Even though the song is quite beautiful, the lyrics lament a lost lover in a spiteful, yet almost comical, sense: “I hope you find loneliness with him / Whatever dark night you’re in / Come stand with me near a tomb / Standing on a gray evening.” Even though you can hear the heartache in his voice, it’s hard to not think that for some reason, he’s just messing with you with such absurd lyrics.

For the instrumental track “Climb Down,” both Romwebers show off their instrumental prowess. Dex switches between heavy riffing, jangly rhythm and short-lived solos, while Sara trills on the snare like a Trans Am revving up for the finish line. The next track, “Redemption,” is Romweber’s take on Christian rock and worship music, telling the story of Christ by focusing on the savior’s blood.

Is That You In the Blue? is a blast to listen to and even though it might sound “old,” it’s still relevant, especially with bands like the Black Keys playing music that harkens back to the early days of rock and roll. You could be on a road trip, at a party or even at an Irish wake and this album would be in the right place. If you’ve never gotten into Romweber’s music, this record is a great intro to his music, which may have influenced some of your favorite artists.

 

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