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Dex Romweber

Carrboro – 2016 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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CDs by Dex Romweber

Dex Romweber has never confined himself to one particular genre or sound in his career, but whether he's done blues, surf rock, standards or something different, there have been a few hallmarks - his electric guitar and his voice, which is reminiscent of an angry god shouting lyrics down from a mountain top. It seems odd, then, that the word that first comes to mind after listening to Carrboro is "mellow." "Subdued" and "reflective" would also be applicable - not words one would associate with the former half of Flat Duo Jets.

Romweber spends as much time on an acoustic guitar or piano than he does with his electric guitar. His typical bluesy guitar riffs don't even make an appearance until the third track, the creepy instrumental "Nightide." There is a generous allotment of instrumentals throughout, and it's easy to appreciate Romweber's guitar virtuosity. His vocals are a bit more of an acquired taste, though. A blues number like "Lonesome Train" is tailor-made for his pipes, but slow, solemn takes on "Tomorrow's Taking My Baby Away" and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" can be pretty jarring for a Romweber neophyte.

Thrown in the middle of the album is "I Don't Know," the Stephen Bruton/T-Bone Burnett song performed by Jeff Bridges on the "Crazy Heart" soundtrack. It may be the most conventional song that Romweber has ever performed and gets him into the realm of what might even be considered mainstream. It's an unexpected cover that works well and wouldn't be out of place on an Americana or alternative rock station.

While there have been some extended absences, Romweber has been in the public eye for more than 30 years as a musician. While he can still deliver a wild punch, "Carrboro" delivers a wide sonic range that may even show long-time fans a few new tricks.