By James Calemine

Dex Romweber and his sister Sara were in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, surf-rockabilly-psychedelic band Flat Duo Jets. They moved to Athens, Georgia, for a while. Memphis luminary Jim Dickinson produced their second album, Go Go Harlem Baby, an album Jack White cited as a major influence.

Dex starred in the 1987 cult film Athens, GA. Inside Out alongside R.E.M. and The B-52s. He’s also the subject of a new documentary called Two-Headed Cow, which chronicles his career. The musicians on Is That You in the Blue? include Rick Miller, Matt Brandon, Django Haskins, Bob Pence and Mary Huff.

Romweber’s original and raucous “Jungle Drums” opens the CD with reckless abandon. The eerie “The Death of Me” evokes a haunted love song that could just as well be a soundtrack to a 70s vampire film. Dex’s original surf instrumental, “Gurdjieff Girl”, indicates why his musicianship remains so influential and timeless.

“Nowhere” creeps along like some 3AM walk through a graveyard of one’s mind. “Wish You Would” reminds me of Jim Dickinson’s unrestrained vocal style. Another Dex original, “Midnight Sun”, conjures Link Wray in this moody love song. Dex covers Myron Lee’s “Homicide” with a feverish grit that’s difficult to forget.

The title track ranks as a true gem. Dex employs timeless tones, lyrics and soul on this number that would make Roy Orbison proud. “Climb Down”–another original–exists as a wide-open instrumental that fits well in this song sequence. “Redemption” truly sounds like a song that plays before a gunfight happens in the street of some old Western movie.

A cover of Shari Sheeley’s “Think of Me” closes this collection with a nostalgic musical kiss to a faded lover. Is That You in the Blue? verifies Dex Romweber contends as a seminal American musician.