Which one is your favorite, Jack White or The Black Keys?
For me the answer is simple…
All the silly talk about who was first and who ripped off who is moot when you bury your nose in the music catalog of the prototype of that predatory, aggressive, two-piece sound that blends blues, rockabilly, rock, country, surf, and a cavalcade of other obscure influences into the wild-eye concoction Dex Romweber has been throwing down for going on 30 years. One of the founding members of the ridiculously-influential two-piece band called the Flat Duo Jets that Jack White and many more of today’s most heralded artists hold in the highest of regards as the originators of the sound, Dex Romweber is still going strong with the Dex Romweber Duo that has released its latest album through Bloodshot Records called Images 13.
Today Dex Romweber is suited up with his sister Sara, and though we’re so used to artists of the crazy variety slowing down and losing heart as they grow older, nothing could be further from the case when it comes to this sibling duo. Dex is still howling and moaning like he always has, and playing his guitar with such abandon, he pulls off riffs most other guitar players only can land by accident. Meanwhile sister Sara is no slouch by any stretch, slapping the skins like she was trying out for a punk band full of 20-somethings. This is “watch your head!” type music. You push play, and hold on, from both the wild ride of a rambunctious attitude, and the dizzying styles they run through along the way.
Images 13 keeps listeners on their toes, opening up with the song “Roll On” that sounds like something you’d hear coming from the hottest clubs still catering to live music. From pre-punk influences like the silly and playful “So Sad About Us” (apparently an obscure, early cut from The Who), to the surf-influenced numbers like “Blackout!” and “Blue Surf”, to the blue-eyed soul of “We’ll Be Together Again” (by Eddie Cochran’s girlfriend Sharon Sheeley about Cochran’s death in a car accident that she and Gene Vincent survived), there’s just about no precinct of the musical palette safe from being tickled by Dex at some point. He can even get mysterious and dark in songs like “Prelude in ‘G’ Minor” and the 50’s Horror Comic aura and curious chords of “I Don’t Want to Listen”. They even go Avant-garde on the last track “Weird (Aurora Borealis)”, taken from TV’s Harry Lubin who wrote the music for The Outer Limits.
Half the time you don’t know what the hell is going on, and that’s half the fun of it. Dex Romwever goes wherever his whimsy takes him, and with such a handsome tool chest of musical skills to call upon at any notice, and a music encyclopedia for a brain, he can. He’s like the American music version of silly putty. It’s the sound of America longing for a simpler past, and finding horror movies about haunted houses and flying saucers, sun-drenched beaches with dangerous undertows shaded through sepia tones, and Memphis sweat corroding the lacquer of catalog guitars. He even unplugs and slows it down for “One Sided Love Affair”—a number with the simplicity and universal sentiment indicative of a Hank Williams song.
It blows my mind any time I’m talking to a fellow music nerd and they give me a “Dex who?” But isn’t that always the way with the originators of a sound, especially ones whose influences are so varied as this one. Like J.J. Cale, like fellow Bloodshot Records artist Wayne “The Train” Hancock, they’re undefinable, yet wildly influential. And though not everyone will be familiar with their music, everyone has heard it in the music of others.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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