Dex Romweber – An Originator of Music (Album Review)
Both originators and imitators are necessary in the music world. The imitators are the ones that can take the originator’s ideas and make them accessible, present them to the masses, mix music from different originators together, and popularize styles, because sometimes the originators are too untamed, too avant-garde for mass consumption.
But when you’re a hardcore music junkie like me, who has spent years building up a heavy tolerance from excessive music listening, or you just want to find the heart of the music, you must search for the truly potent stuff by breaking music down to the the germination of a style or approach by seeking out these originators to find that same magic you felt the first time you heard some of your favorite bands or artists.
Someone people might finger as an originator of music is the widely-influential artist and producer Jack White (The White Stripes, many others), but even Jack can be broken down further. If you follow his influences, where you’ll end up is a handful of artists, including an early 90’s band called The Flat Duo Jets, and their frontman Dexter Romweber. It isn’t that Dex’s style is so wholly original to the ear. For convenience, you could classify it as rockabilly, and this would be fair. But his ability to bridge and flow between so many different classic American styles: rockabilly, country, blues, jazz, surf, garage; and his ability to do it with the most unparallelled authenticity of rabid energy, is the reason that Dex Romweber is a musician that musicians listen to.
A saying you see is that Dex Romweber taught Jack White how to be Jack White. Check this out:
The thing I liked about the Flat Duo Jets was they were showing people what was possible in a live performance and on a record. It was really refreshing to see a band like that, that it was obvious when you watched Dexter perform, he didn’t care what people though about him, he just wanted to express these songs that were coming out of him.
The Flat Duo Jets recorded their self-titled 1990 album in a garage on two tracks. After the group broke up in 1999, Dex Romweber began a solo career. He now performs as the Dex Romweber Duo with his sister Sara, who gets my vote as one of the best drummers carrying two X chromosomes. Dex’s duo approach has also been cited as a seminal influence on the greater music world, contributing to bands like The Black Keys.
The Dex Romweber Duo has just released a new album, Is That You In Blue through Bloodshot Records. If spending 25 years mercilessly using his body as a medium to express American roots music in a wild manner has slowed Dex down or diminished his effectiveness, there is no evidence to that end in this work; the evidence is to the contrary.
Is That You illustrates the healthy mix of classic American music modes that is Dex’s signature. His originals sound like classics. The classics he chose for the album sound like originals. If songs could talk, they would beg for the Romweber treatment. To be handled with such energy and class, to be presented with such tone and taste is an honor. With his white on black, classic Silvertone guitar, Dex exudes his songs more like an incantation than a performance, allowing the soul of the song to flow through him, with no regard to how goofy the ritual makes him look. Dex is also not afraid to slow it down on this album, and rely on his deep voice that evokes Memphis of the mid 50’s, and the madness of raw human emotion.
Dex Romweber has solidified his place as an American original by keeping originality alive in American roots music. Deep roots make strong branches, and though roots may be hidden underground, the strength of Dex Romweber has allowed many branches to climb high, and made the tree of American music a much more beautiful, interesting, and entertaining thing to behold.
Two guns up!
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Is That You In Blue is available on CD or Vinyl
Listen to Samples
Dex Romweber Duo from The Muddy Roots Fest 2010:
July 27, 2011 @ 8:00 pm
Thanks for the write-up Trig. Our AZ Chapter has had the pleasure of hosting 2 of Dex’s Phoenix events, it is an honor for us to help present his name when he comes through Phoenix. Last year, he was on tour with Exene Cervanca… good times…
July 28, 2011 @ 5:31 am
I quite enjoyed it, not my usual listening but it was alright. Interesting music.
July 28, 2011 @ 8:43 am
The heart of the music-right on! Gives me a hard-rockin’ vibe that pumps the blood! I do like it and as a live music junkie, I’m hard pressed to find that kind of fix anywhere but in REAL country! REAL musicians. REAL music. The POP artists want to manufacture it in a studio (fail) then sell out arenas to feed the greed (double fail). Who cares? If a Nashville suit came up to Dex Romweber and told him he was gonna make him a big star, with a big record deal and all you gotta do is sell your soul and conform to POP country standards, what do you think Dex Romweber would say?
To me, that’s what sets the true musicians/artists from the I wanna be rich and famous artists. What’s in the heart baby.
July 28, 2011 @ 10:23 am
They’re playing here tonight. Can’t wait to hear the new stuff live!!!
July 28, 2011 @ 1:55 pm
I just gave this one a listen, and while listening I read the Eric Church review.Could there be more contrast? I haven”t heard Church, don’t think I will, so I don’t judge that one, but it took a lot of production,I guess, while Dex Romweber sounds like it took no more than one or two weeks to make this album.
Over the past 25 years, the Cramps were a big influence then, and they opened the door to the treasure-chamber for a lot of bands, I have heard a lot of the music that inspires Romweber, the old stuff and the new bands. Most bands that kicked ass on stage had trouble to recreate that in the studio, and I think that is one of the important qualities of this new cd. I have never seen him, hope I get an opportunity, because you can hear that they can play, and you can feel that they play it just the way they want to play it. What further production do you need?
Thanks for the review!
August 3, 2011 @ 5:04 pm
Reminds me of Rev Horton Heat. Good stuff!
August 12, 2011 @ 6:43 am
love the love for Dex and for highlighting the influence of the Flat Duo Jets… saw them way back in the day at a podunk college in the middle of podunk NC in front of only a handful of students and they FLOORED everyone… and showed how great artists play great music….awesome to see Dex still spreading the gospel of groove…