Album Reviews

Dex Romweber

Carrboro

Artist:     Dex Romweber

Album:     Carrboro

Label:     Bloodshot Records

Release Date:     09/09/2016

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Dexter Romweber was born the seventh son of a coal miner’s daughter. Though he grew up on the classic rock staples of FM radio, he later steeped himself in 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. As the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the the Flat Duo Jets, Dex has pioneered southern-gothic punk-rockabilly since the late 1980s. Along with groups like Southern Culture On The Skids, he helped define the alternative music scene in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Dex is known to many as the originator of “the garage rock duo,” but in a recent interview with Elmore Magazine he commented, “The truth is we couldn’t afford a third member!” Regardless, Dex has had an enormous influence on the likes of Jack White, with whom he has recorded and toured, the Black Keys, the Reigning Sound and many others. His latest album, Carrboro, finds him covering familiar territory, squeezing lo-fi grit out of his trademark Silvertone guitar on 13 well produced tracks.

On “I Had A Dream,” Dex sings with all the longing of Ricky Nelson. Gentle, Farfisa organs provide haunting texture as he is accompanied by a spare rhythm section. Indeed, much of Carrboro is stripped down, with Dex playing most of the instruments as is the case with “Lonesome Train,” where he gets back to gritty, Memphis-style blues.

In contrast, Dex brings in the big guns with the New Romans, a nine piece section featuring bongos, bass, drums, sax, guitars, organ and ‘60s sci-fi backing vocals on “Nightide.” The effect is big, but not overwhelming, each player providing well balanced color.

Dex is a big fan of classical music, particularly Chopin. Though his piano chops are more barroom than Carnegie Hall, he lays down pleasant chords on “Tomorrow’s Taking My Baby Away.” He’s back with the New Romans on “Trouble Of The World” here sounding a bit like a dark, tortured Elvis, his anguish palpable.

The twisted, instrumental version of “My Funny Valentine” plays like something you’d hear in a seedy, 1950s Las Vegas strip club, while “Where Do You Roam” is the most upbeat tune with a rollicking, good time skiffle feel. “Knock Knock” features dissonant lead guitar work by friend and neighbor Rick Miller of SCOTS.

There’s always something slightly off kilter about Dex’s style, which makes his work both haunted and intriguing. Dexter Romweber is a true American original. Get to know him with Carrboro. Highly recommended!

-Mike Cobb

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