Thank God for Is That You in the Blue?, the new sucker punch of a record from the Dex Romweber Duo. After the duo's 2009 release, Ruins of Berlin, it seemed like Romweber had lost some of the passion that previously drove comparisons between his music and a snake handler's revival. His vocal trick of rumbling like a crazed preacher was largely replaced by a suspiciously smooth baritone, and the confident, raw quality of his guitar work just wasn’t there.
But the new record proves he’s still casting out demons, and he and drummer/sis Sara work as a cohesive, blistering unit. His rumbling and rich torching now meld seamlessly on songs like “Midnight Sun” and “Nowhere,” evoking a dark, ghostly, blues-drenched limbo that’s both emotionally arresting and disturbing. The instrumentals, while less charged, are equally impressive. The surf rocker “Gurdjieff Girl” doesn’t need vocals to paint a vivid picture. It might just be the best back-alley spy theme ever written.
Romweber really is a master of the journey. Listening to these songs is like wandering down a lonely road, sometimes sad with occasional diversions, but never boring. There’s always a new plane to be explored in his world. He’s like the Rod Serling of American music. Is That You in the Blue? is another dimension, indeed.
Dex Romweber Duo play at the Caledonia Lounge on July 29.