Retro Deluxe

Retro Deluxe
Watermelon Tea

Rinkled Rooster Records

By Lady K
February 2011

Confession time: when Watermelon Tea and the accompanying promotional material arrived in York Beach, Maine, Lady K was a tad nervous. The promo said that Retro Deluxe is a ‘rockabilly’ blues band, and as Lady K has a very low twang-tolerance, she was quite concerned that she wouldn’t/couldn’t be impartial; it took weeks before she actually listened. The guitar riff in the opening tune, “Watermelon Tea” relieved her of that worry. There is a comfortable level of rockabilly in this very well done blues CD. Retro Deluxe’s lead singer is Bobby Joe Owens; lead guitar, Zach Sweeney; bass, Justin Showah; keyboards, Billy Earheart; and backing vocals, Jennifer Pierce Mathus. Watermelon Tea was produced by Jimbo Mathus (who was also responsible for drums and rhythm guitar). The sixteen songs are original, and written by Robert J. Thompson, the band’s manager.

“A Woman Like That” has a nice medium-blues beat, killer guitar, and a message that even tho’ his woman dumped him, she had qualities that he still admires; but maybe a little booze will help ‘cure’ the memory (the good, old-fashioned blues way). In “I’ve Got One Woman,” the singer praises his lady’s qualities in a slower tempo; the message is that this woman is the best.

“The Mother Nature Song” is slow-blues at its best. This tune is a showcase for Zach Sweeney (also known as Skinny Fats) – and he replicates the very best of Freddie King’s kick-ass guitar styles. The song itself is funny and innovative – Mother Nature is a bitch (repeated many times for emphasis) because she keeps messing with her ‘son.’ When you’re down, you’re down and even bad weather feels aimed at you personally – makes sense.

“One Tooth Tessie” brings a little comedy to the blues (along with some harp backup, by Mathus). Evidently the molar-challenged Tessie is much in demand because she ‘works that one tooth right, and loves with all her might; she is the ugliest, sexiest gal!!!’ Even more laughs are provided by the lyrics in “Too Much Drama:” the singer is truly dazed by what he’s seeing all around him in today’s world, to mention a few shockers -- she’s dating hers; he’s dating hims; Susie Johnson turned into a Jim; neighbors aren’t speaking to neighbors; there are barroom brawls. It is a very funny commentary on the ‘new order’ of things in the world.

“Clarksdale Mississippi” is wonderful. It’s a slow-blues tune, showcasing Justin Showah’s masterful bass guitar, and Bobby Joe manages to sound like a young Elvis (Presley, that is). This is a thoroughly enjoyable tune extolling Clarksdale as the “promised land” where blues live 24x7. Lady K’s favorit-est tune is “Heavenly Band,” with an upbeat tempo and a description about a dream of what heaven might be like. Picture a white stage, and on that stage the ultimate blues band: Willie on bass, Walter on harp, both Albert and Freddie on guitar, belting out tunes like “Wang Dang Doodle,” “Crossroads,” “Dust My Broom,” as the angels sing along. If that’s heaven, we all need to repent!!!!!!!

Retro Deluxe’s Watermelon Tea is worthy of a listen or two, or three (don’t let the rockabilly label scare you away).

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