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Soul, guitar and instrumental prowess dominate

April 23, 2014

Soul and guitar is in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week. St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a new band that is just beginning to make a big splash. The band’s debut called Half the City is a hair-raiser.

“Dex Romweber was and is a huge influence on my music. I owned all of his records as a teenager, and was thrilled at the fact that we were able to play together recently on tour. [He] is one of the best kept secrets of the rock n roll underground.” So says Jack White of The White Stripes fame. Romweber’s new album is a killer and we give it the Ear Bliss look-see. Let’s get down to business.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones
“Half the City”
Single Lock Records

Go back a couple of years and a soul-shaking band called Alabama Shakes from where else, but Alabama, was turning the indie rock world on its side with an incredible passionate and soulful singer in Brittany Howard and its music which straddled garage, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Whereas the Shakes are likely prepping for a follow-up to that stellar debut, along comes another ‘bama entity in St. Paul & The Broken Bones that is beginning to create a similar stir. Like the Alabama Shakes, the calling card for St. Paul & the Broken Bones is its lead singer. Paul Janeway is the slightly rotund and bespectacled chap’s name and his church-like range and the Southern preacher-like gospel soul fire in his voice is something to behold. Unlike the four-piece Shakes, St. Paul & The Broken Bones at seven strong including a horn section is an army. As the dozen tracks comprising “Half the City” attest in stellar fashion, the band’s Southern soul-powered assault, with Janeway at the helm, lands somewhere in the Al (Green), Otis (Redding) and Wilson (Pickett) zone. It’s a good zone to be in and an album that’ll get you both sweaty and feeling so very soulful. Buy it and play it loud, loud, loud!

Dex Romweber Duo
“Images 13”
Bloodshot Records

Artists from The White Stripes to Neko Case to Cat Power cite guitarist Dexter Romweber’s days as one half of the two-headed pyschobilly racket squad Flat Duo Jets as a significant influence in their own musical careers. After the breakup of the FDJs in the late 1990s, Romweber retreated to a solo career first forming a duo with the drummer Crash LaResh and releasing two albums under his own name for Bloodshot Records. After LaResh’s departure in 2007, Romweber’s drum-playing older sister Sara (of Let’s Active fame) stepped in and the Dex Romweber Duo was born. “Images 13” is Romweber’s third for Bloodshot Records and he keeps to form over the album’s dozen tracks which mix high-powered instrumentals and vocal numbers. There’s a dark, noir feel to “Images 13.” The album begins with the smash of cymbals and Dex’s cool guitar strokes all over leadoff track “Roll On” before the treacherous rockabilly sounds of “Long Battle Coming” and the loungy undertones of “Baby I Know What It’s Like to Be Alone.” Merseybeat jangle is all over the duo’s cover of The Who’s 1966 song “So Sad About Us” whereas the equally catchy “Beyond the Moonlight” is a pure slice of hillbilly hoedown. Romweber’s voice is full of bravado on cuts like “I Don’t Want to Listen” and a cover of the Jackie DeShannon number “We’ll Be Together Again,” whereas his guitar work is untouchable on instrumental numbers like “Prelude in G Minor,” “Black Out” which takes a page out of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme, the Pipeline-styled “Blue Surf,” and closing track “Weird (Aurora Borealis)” featuring Melissa Swingle on the ghostly sounding saw. There is much to savor on the many-flavored “Images 13.” Visit

The big event is on Saturday night as folk legend Tom Rush returns to Rhode Island to perform as part of the Common Fence Point music series for a special show on the Salve Regina campus. The concert happens at 8 p.m. at the Bazarsky Lecture Hall located in the O’Hare Academic Center at 100 Ochre Point Ave., Newport.

A pretty darn good and free twin bill happening at Nik-a-Nee’s in Providence (South Street) on Saturday night courtesy of local heroes The ‘Mericans along with the big power pop guitar sounds of The Figgs. Things get going at 9 p.m. That same evening over in Warren, songstress and guitarist Allysen Callery headlines at the Church Street Coffeehouse. Ryan Lynn Crosby is in the opening slot.

Moving to Sunday afternoon, Detroit Breakdown Blues holds fort at the Narragansett Café in Jamestown from 1 p.m. to 4 pm. Later that evening, Lizzie James and the Greystone Rail brings their bluegrass sounds to the Wood River Inn in downtown Wyoming, R.I. (Main Street). Music begins at 6 p.m.

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


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