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If Dexter Romweber's music was ever about exorcism, this is proof it still is. Ten Bad Studs--the latest offering from our hero, justifiably recognized as an architect of backwoods garage rhythm 'n' blues--serves five live recordings from Romweber recorded between Chapel Hill and Chattanooga, offering a glimpse into the soul of a man who dances, sings and strums like a banshee in spite of, or, more exactly, because of it. For "Dreams Don't Cost a Thing," the former Flat Duo Jets frontman moans in a weary baritone: "When you smile, my heart goes wild, and I want you all the while/ You're not free, We'll never be/ But a dream, that don't cost a thing." See, Dex admits the demon, and--a spin later--he tries to drive it down, turning "Curse of the Little Bastard" through an instrumental, honky-tonk ring of hell-raising fire, land-locking surf sounds to a bed of blistering, set-me-free blues. That central tenet--demons, damsels and doubts expunged through twisted introspection launched out of vintage amps--is certainly something that Dex's disciples have picked up on. For instance, Throw Rag--the L.A. quartet that takes the second bevy of this vinyl-only split--sounds irrevocably locked between transcendence and damnation, eating up all-night Baywatch reruns on "Desert Shores" just after moaning their own haunting funeral marches in "Wilmington Nights." "Halfway to Heaven," the disc's closer, is a repentant doomsday affair, as Captain Sean Doe admits that he hopes his children don't follow his footsteps, that "Heaven is no place for a man like me." Vintage misery, two generations at a time.


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