Dex Romweber, J Kutchma, Ghostwriter

Dex Romweber

BORN THE 7th SON OF A COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER in 1966, Dexter Romweber has grown up to become nothing less than an icon of the American music underground.

Former frontman for the world famous psycho-surf-rockabilly-garage-punk combo Flat Duo Jets, Dexter released his first of fifteen albums in 1990 to rave reviews worldwide. He starred alongside R.E.M. and The B-52s in the 1987 cult classic film Athens, Ga. Inside Out. His first national tour in 1990 was as opening act for The Cramps. He was showcased on MTV's The Cutting Edge and 120 Minutes, appeared with the Flat Duo Jets in videos such as "Wild Wild Lover" and "Radioactive Man", made a stunning performance on Late Night with David Letterman, and has shared the stage with dozens of rock's underground kings including Iggy Pop, the White Stripes, AntiSeen, Reverend Horton Heat and many, many others.

Dexter's unique blend of rockabilly, swing, surf instrumental, and punk lounge has influenced and launched an entire generation of bands. Be sure to read Jeff Arndt's excellent interview with Dexter that appears on the "Perfect Sounds Forever" site: "Beyond The Flat Duo Jets". Reviewer Michael Stephens has also written an insightful profile of Dexter for the Pop Matters web site.

The Dex Romweber Duo also features Dex's celebrated sibling Sara Romweber (Mitch Easter, Lets Active, Snatches of Pink) on drums. Together they have been performing electrifying concerts all over the US and Europe, touring with Cat Power, Southern Culture On The Skids, Legendary Shack Shakers and Neko Case.

Dex is the subject of a new documentary movie, Two-Headed Cow, which chronicles his legendary career. The movie includes testimonials by Jack White, Neko Case, Cat Power and Exene Cervenka amongst others, all of whom cite Dex as a major personal influence. An accompanying CD, featuring these guest stars, is currently in the works.

Red Collar frontman J. Kutchma’s always possessed an impassioned vocal style, and the character of that voice and nature of his songs make the sound similar no matter the backing. Red Collar’s approach is noisy and slashing, recalling the prickly post-punk of Wire and SST-era eddies of distortion. It dovetails well with Kutchma’s dramatic, declamatory delivery. When the members’ individual circumstances slowed the band’s momentum, Kutchma took his solo act out of the garage for a new look.

His desperate tone recalls Nebraska-era Springsteen, delivered with the folk-punk swagger of Tim Barry. Absent a loud backing band, the anthemic nature of the songs actually shines clearer. Reprising three Red Collar tunes on 2010’s five-song Fest 9 EP, Kutchma strips away the crush of guitar to reveal earnest ache and a constant desire for something better. By last spring, when he released another live EP, it was clear Kutchma was settling in to his new role. An electric had replaced the acoustic, and the songs were new even if the feel was the same—anxious, hungry and clinging to that innocence, as on “Teenage DMZ,” where he finds succor in a guitar. “It was like the first time I could stand up tall,” he sings. “Now I’m walking tall and I’m going to sing out loud.”

In January, Kutchma released a country track backed by a crack band featuring members of Aminal, Rat Jackson, and Maple Stave, as well as pedal steel player Nathan Golub. The gospel-tinged Americana arrives ahead of Pastoral, his new album with this new band. Splitting the folk from the punk makes more sense knowing that Red Collar is also returning with a new full-length, expected later this fall. Given that it’s Kutchma, you can feel confident of its yearning, nomadic mien. —Chris Parker

For fans of: Tom Waits, Howlin' Wolf, Nick Cave

Ghostwriter could be the post-punk version of a Harry Smith-era self-accompanied singer-songwriter... For the last decade, Ghostwriter has hit the road in true troubadour form: one man traveling, making music that is direct and uncompromised. Ghostwriter has shared the stage with icons like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, T-Model Ford, The Real Kids, and released six albums on End of the West records. Known for stark Americana and an unrelenting DIY ethos, on his last album Prayin' all the time (2012), Ghostwriter brings fire and brimstone deep into the Oregon backwoods.

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