The Dex Romweber Duo: 'Is That You in the Blue?'

The Dex Romweber Duo

Is That You in the Blue? (Bloodshot)

The second album from former Flat Duo Jets frontman Dexter Romweber and his sister, Sara (and first for Chicago alt-country label Bloodshot) is a tour through Romweber's career, from the unhinged punkabilly and psychotic country of his earliest lo-fi recordings to the swinging lounge- and surf-inflected jazz-rock he's refined over the last decade or so.

Is That You in the Blue?, like most of Romweber's records, is a mix of obscure covers and original songs, and features contributions from semiregular Duo auxiliaries Matt Brandau (bass), Django Haskins (lap steel and acoustic guitar), and Bob Pence (sax) and guest appearances by Rick Miller and Mary Huff of Southern Culture on the Skids. Romweber's "Jungle Drums" and a ramshackle cover of Myron Lee's "Homicide" could have come from the Flat Duo Jets' 1990 debut full-length, Go Go Harlem Baby, but elsewhere there are razor-sharp genre-bending exercises: Haskins' rumbling, widescreen roadhouse thriller "Death of Me," the surf instrumental "Gurdjieff Girl," the existential dread of Big John Taylor's "Nowhere." The disc peaks with a surprisingly recognizable cover of Johnny Cash's "Redemption"; the Romwebers inject a galloping rhythm and apocalyptic fervor to the original's spare framework, and Dexter's big barrel-chested croon is just as good on this version as Cash's carved-from-granite baritone was in 1994.

The album is a qualified success, but a success without question. A little too much of Is That You in the Blue? slides by in a mid-tempo haze of reverb guitar and drum brushes, but its best moments match the highlights of a long and illustrious—and strikingly original—career.