Share THE RUINS OF BERLIN - Dex Romweber Duo (Bloodshot Records)
If it hadn't been for Atlanta podcaster Grrtch Wood from the Garage Punk Network, Dex Romweber would have remained a mystery and just another hard-to-spell name in the overcrowded recesses of my tiny, fevered mind. After all, his former band, Flat Duo Jets, sounded like a big rockabilly deal Stateside that never translated to much overseas, and roots rockers are 10 to the dozen these days. Anyway, Grrtch had raved at length about the Dex Romweber Duo being something special. This third studio album shows she was right.
The tag "roots rocker" is a dubious catch-all that doesn't state much. Dex Romweber Duo, on the other hand, have plenty to say. The mix of crooners, rockers and rumbling instrumentals on "The Ruins Of Berlin" sounds like the soundtrack of a very cool late '50s movie when the mutant baby called Rock and Roll was just emerging from its crib and working out just what the fuck it was. It's both anchored in the past and timeless music that sits on the fringes of conventionality, as most of it know it.
Dexter (guitar, organ and vocals) and older sister Sara (drums) are augmented by bass player Robbie Link, with a smattering of big indie name guests (Exene Cervenka, Neko Case, Cat Power) dropping by to vocalise.
DRD's music would hold up without the guests. Remember character? There's more of it on this record than the turn-out at a big Hollywood movie casting call for extras where they're paying twice the union scale.
Dex switches his vocal from besotted backwoods rocker ("Picture") to dramatic ballroom balladeer ("Camellia's Gone (Let It Snow)", "Oh Lover's Gone" and "Still Around") in the twinkle of an eye. His guitar-playing, at least on this album, is excellent but relegated to side-of-stage, letting the spotlight focus squarely on that sonorous, rich voice. Big Sis's drumming swings nicely, with no hint of over-embellishment.
This is a rolled-gold winner of a record, from the hyperactive instrumentals ("Lookout", the sax-assisted "Polish Work Song") to the infectious and sparse title track. If they were European you'd say they were playing it for laughs. No such irony is evidence - there's more the sense that DRD love, and live, this music for all it's worth and that's why they keep a straight face.
"The Ruins Of Berlin" is so far off my usual musical radar screen - while still having a beating rock and roll heart - to remain on high rotation for some time to come. - The Barman
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