The Chris Duarte Group,
Romp
(Zoe/Rounder, 2003)

Crunchy hard-rock bands are not what I ordinarily listen to. Still, even if you don't, the Texas-based Chris Duarte Group has its pleasures: blues and r&b echoes amid the feedback and distortion. Duarte has clearly spent more time listening to white rock guitarists playing blues than to African-American artists doing the same. Well, except for Jimi Hendrix, who seems nearly omnipresent here. There are, as well, touches of '60s-style fusion such as you may recall from John McLaughlin's influential band.

Loud white electric-guitar blues has become, one might say, a tradition in its own right. In the CDG's case the tradition begins with Led Zep, which I confess was a large reason I stopped listening to popular music in the late 1960s. Where blues is concerned, I drink muddy water and sleep in a hollow log.

So maybe this isn't for me, really. On an extended slow piece, clocking in at 9:28, Duarte recounts a romantic mishap in the comically sinister tones of a professional wrestler. Hard to know whether it's supposed to be funny or not, but as a pro-wrestling fan since before I could read, it does make me laugh. "Do the Romp" is a good-natured rock 'n' roll dance tune underneath all the obesity, flatulence and thunderation, and "101," which follows, and "Bb Blues," both blues-shuffle instrumentals, would enliven any joint.

If you want it sort-of bluesy and anything-but-sort-of loud, without a whole lot of nuance or subtlety -- in other words, if you need something to go out and drink a whole lot of beer alongside -- look no further. Decent enough on disc, I'm sure that CDG's natural environment is live.

- Rambles
written by Jerome Clark
published 25 September 2004