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Country, soul and blues shine in this week’s Ear Bliss spotlight

August 17, 2012

A mixed bag of releases are in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week. First up is a terrific compilation of country songs as done by soul and R&B artists. Next up is the latest album from singer/guitarist Dexter Romweber. Romweber fist gained fame as the front man for the garage act Flat Duo Jets and has been cited as a chief inspiration to artists ranging from Jack White to Neko Case to Cat Power. Let’s get to business.

Various Artists
Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul
Kent Records

Perhaps no style of songwriting lends itself better to the soul touch than a country song and particular, the ballads. Proof positive is the new compilation from British import label Kent Records titled Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul. The country genre has always been worth its weight in gold when it comes to song interpretation by black artists of the soul, blues and R&B variety. Witness Lionel Ritchie who “went country” early this year to rave reviews. Behind Closed Doors offers up 23 slabs of country given the deep soul treatment. The collection culls recordings from the 1960s through the ‘90s. The singers demonstrating their interpretative powers are many of the heavy hitters of soul including Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge, Al Green, James Carr, Arthur Alexander, Joe Simon, Joe Tex, and Candi Staton. The songs are most all country classics spanning Aaron Neville covering George Jones’ “The Grand Tour” which leads off the set to Cookie Jackson’s wonderful reworking of Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” to Little Milton taking Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” to another level. On this collection, the songs burn a little more intensely and the conviction runs a little and it doesn’t take long to get caught up in its web.

Dex Romweber Duo
Is That You In the Blue?
Bloodshot Records BS186

Appreciation of guitarist and singer Dexter Romweber by this camp goes back to his early days as one half of the marauding twosome, Flat Duo Jets. Just guitar and drums, the FDJs played it fast and primitive. Their work inspired acts from The White Stripes to Cat Power. When they finally called it quits, Romweber hooked up with his drumming sister Sara of Let’s Active fame to form the Dex Romweber Duo. Is That You In the Blue? is their third release and continues the expansion of Romweber’s sound into something finely seasoned, but still possessing the brashness and potency of those freewheeling surf/rockabilly/garage days with the FDJs. He once again demonstrates choice taste in eclectic covers drawing from the likes of Chicago blues harpist Billy Boy Arnold (“Nowhere”), contemporary pop noir guitarist Django Haskins, Brazilian composer Ary Barrasco (“Brazil” featuring Romweber in full bravado), and deep catalogue rockabilly from early trailblazers such as Myron Lee (“Homicide”), Shari K. Sheeley (“Think of Me”) and Benny Joy (“I Remember Darling”).

If dancing is your thing, it’s tough to top the Saturday night twin bill at The Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Road, Matunuck) featuring area favorites Roomful of Blues and Eight to the Bar. The party gets going at 8 p.m. Earlier in the day, soak up the sounds of house band The Ocean Mistics. Music begins at 3:30 and admission is free.

Dashboard Confessional performs a solo acoustic show on Friday night at the Met Café (Hope Artiste Village, 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket) with doors at 7 and music beginning at 8 pm.

A terrific bill at Local 121 (121 Washington Street, Providence) on Friday night with local alt rock heroes The Brother Kite and the swampy folk sounds of Wisconsin-based headliner The Daredevil Christopher Wright. Music begins at 10 pm.

Emotionally charged acoustic folk rock is Lisa Martin’s hallmark sound. See for yourself on Friday night when the Lisa Martin Duo appears at the Oak Hill Tavern (565 Tower Hill Road, North Kingstown). The following evening, The Dunn Brothers play Americana-and-then-some music at the Oak Hill.

Some great blues music is on the menu at The Narragansett Café (25 Narragansett Ave, Jamestown) on Sunday afternoon with the Tim Taylor Blues Band. Music begins at 4 pm.

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.)


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