The Dustbowl Revival set out to set themselves apart, and, as sure as the brilliant ball of a sunrise, they did. Big-boned, gangly R&B with arms a tangle of woody roots, the music and singing on their self-titled fifth album absolutely startles the senses.
From its greasy-cool takeoff to riotous end, its 11 original songs display in matchless style how seemingly disparate kinds of American music can be commingled to create thrilling beauty. And to induce dancing. Lots of serious ass-shaking.
Ten years ago the brainchild of singer/songwriter/guitarist Z. Lupetin, who crossed over from the Midwest to participate in the wild ways of the West, his L.A.-based octet evolved into something even he couldn’t envision. With an elastic twist of a horn, and an ecstatic, lowdown “Oh, yeah,” the slam bam band falls into place with the hard-boogying, jive-talking “Call My Name,” just the first in a series of irresistible, brass-blasted melodies.
Paired with the dramatic “If You Could See Me Now,” next, the glorious sounds of Memphis’ Stax era spring forth. But, with a sharp new edge. Lead singer Liz Beebe makes herself known here, that’s for sure. She proves from song to song to be a real-deal diva of the caliber that guarantees a bright future. Her tenor — sweetness and resilience exemplified — works incredibly well in the rhythm and blues realm, but perhaps even better in concert with Lupetin’s easygoing wide-open spaces manner. “Debtor’s Prison” finds them singing together from their cores in a strings and horns-enhanced folk ballad. Lupetin designed the song in old-timey fashion, but it comes through in many ways completely up-to-date.
Up and lively, with bluegrassy-plucked strings and soulful brass alike complimenting Beebe and her mate’s harmonious voices, “Gonna Fix You” has “hit” written all over it. “Good Egg” takes that several leaps up yet, with excited “woo-hoo’s” punctuating the feeling. “The Story,” built with a rock ‘n’ roll heart and dressed in NOLA street band brass, also vies for your utmost attention. Keb’ Mo’ sings on “Honey I Love You,” the sunlit sentiment perfect for him to drop in on.
Not one song disappoints. Absolutely, this joyful spectacle will be among my top 10, if not five, albums of the year.
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- The Dustbowl Revival
“The Dustbowl Revival”
Label: Signature Sounds
Release: June 16, 2017
Next nearby shows: Wanderlust, Squaw Valley, July 20. Hangtown Music Festival, Oct. 28