There’s a thin line from Elvis Presley to Dex Romweber. But before you charge sacrilege or scoff at the suggestion, it would be wise to listen to Romweber’s latest disc, Is That You In the Blue? Romweber’s highly styled guitar playing and songwriting run the course from rockabilly to surf-punk to (somewhat) tender balladry. He’s got an evil eye for observation and plays guitar like a man who wouldn’t know what to do without one. So, in that respect, and based on pure fire alone, Elvis has got nothing on him.
Romweber has spent decades of his career perfecting the reckless, interplanetary Southern swing that rises into full view on Blue. Whether it’s the darkened, two-lane blacktop imagery of “Nowhere” or the syncopated bossa nova drumming on “Brazil” (provided by Romweber’s sister, Sara), Romweber’s guitar lines are covered with the grime of Americana, while his voice is shaky with apocalyptic quiver. Blueis an unsettling, rocking journey from the dark edges of the American Underground to the bright dawn after an all-night bender.
All is not dark, though. Romweber’s ballads can be tender and full of promise. Album closers “I Remember Darling” and “Think of Me,” despite the militant march drumming and atonal chord changes, sound sweet and somewhat endearing; almost primed and ready to go on a mix-tape for your best ex-lover. Other tales of love like the blistering, riff-heavy “Wish You Would,” and the fuck-off lyrics of the title track (“I hope you find loneliness with him/ whatever dark night you’re in”), abound throughout Blue’s 14 tracks. Each tune alternates slyly between sin and redemption, darkness and light, and hell bound rock ‘n’ roll.
Blue’s highlight, the darkly sweet “The Death of Me” is the best example of what Romweber can do (besides burn through 14 lean tracks in just 38 minutes). With stark lyrics such as “you’ll drown in an unforgiving sea,” paired with a few well-placed slide guitar lines, Romweber shows off his deft ability to create songs about all of the things that haunt us the most: unrequited love and love lost. His voice is deep and winsome, his guitar is clear, yet dirty, and Is That You In the Blue? is a worthy addition to his storied career.