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Retro Deluxe - Watermelon Tea

Rinkled Rooster


Retro Deluxe for this effort consists of Bobby Joe Owens on lead vocals and the amazing young guitarist Zach Sweeney abetted by The Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Jimbo Mathis as producer and rudimentary drummer and Jimbo’s partner in crime Justin Showah on electric and standup bass. This is the first time out for this configuration that deals in a raw and spare sound as they deliver all original songs that take from various blues styles. You’ll swear that you’ve heard some of these tunes before as the band has absorbed without mimicking. Zach props up the proceedings with his endless trick- bag of licks providing rhythm and lead. Blues, rockabilly-blues, Chuck Berry riffs and grunge pop up to pepper the tunes while Bobby Joe’s swagger and hint of an Elvis and George Thorogood vibe keep things real. Grammy/Emmy Award winner Billy Earheart(Amazing Rhythm Aces, Hank Williams Jr.) underscores with his piano and organ on about half the tracks. The only other extra is backing vocals.

The title track would fit into the soundtrack of a hokey Elvis movie. I can see it now-“The King” swiveling his hips as he exhorts the virtues of his Ruby Mae’s watermelon tea making skills as scantily glad bimbos cavort around “His Swivel-Ness”.

“A Woman Like That” is George Thorogood territory, but with better guitar skills. Bobby Joe’s voice goes in-and-out of Thorogood mode on the clever “Hoochie Coochie Back Door Man”. Distorted guitar goes hand-in-hand with Owens’ down-in-the-gutter berating of an untrue lover in the aptly named “You’re Lyin’”. “The Mother Nature Song” is old-school guitar blues at its best as the writer unfolds a litany of travails the old girl has imposed on our hero. “One Tooth Tessie” is a gut-bucket blues ode to his girlfriends ability to “work that one tooth right”. Acoustic guitar, harmonica and standup bass give the song the necessary atmosphere. The pitfalls of family life are described in “Too Much Drama”, again regaled with Zach’s driving and catchy string work. Chuck Berry and the spirit of Johnnie Johnson are called up on another Thorogood-ish workout via “Rockin’ The Blues Tonight.” Zach brings out his T-Bone Walker arsenal to the front on “Beer and Whiskey, Wine and Cigarettes”, a song that sounds like it’s a jump-blues standard. “Heavenly Band” is a “dead-blues guy” tune that REALLY swings and works without sounding corny. A John Lee Hooker groove-meets-jump blues, sang thru the harp mic is the draw of “Rough, Tumble, Roll”, not to mention the ever-ready Skinny Fats.

I’ll admit this one took a while to grow on me, but once the growing is done, you’re left with a dose of hard-edged blues reality. The slight flaw of the monotonous drone of “Clarksdale, Mississippi”(guess the number of times the title is repeated and you win a “kewpie doll”) aside, there is a heapin’ helpin’ of modern blues to found here. Jimbo’s production values elevate the tag-team effort of Bobby Joe and Zach. If there is any justice in the world Zach will eventually join the ranks of blues guitar masters such as Duke Robillard, Anson Funderburg and Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin. So don’t touch that dial….pick this one up and anxiously await to see what these guys cook-up next.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony is from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at

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