Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Veteran Virtuosity

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 1999 at 12:00 AM

In many ways, NRBQ is something of an institution. While the "Q" has changed from Quintet to Quartet and the (R)hythm and (B)lues aren't exactly (N)ew after 30 years of playing bars, clubs and festivals, nobody plays good-time rock 'n' roll like NRBQ, — nobody. Led by the zany-yet-inscrutable keyboard genius of Terry Adams, NRBQ has relentlessly explored the history of American music with wisdom, irony and enthusiasm. While I personally miss Al Anderson's razor-sharp guitar licks and raucous vocal bellow, guitarist Johnny Spampinato has slipped into his predecessor's role quite nicely. Along with brother Joey Spampinato's slippery bass and Tom Ardolino's steady rolling drum theatrics, the NRBQ hopscotches from barrelhouse blues to fractured pop tunes to greasy roots-rock of the highest order. On the song "CM Pups," Terry Adams shows off his absurdist wordplay as well as some jazzy, Monk-styled pianoisms. "Blame It on the World" features the Spampinatos crooning with loungelike devotion while Terry Adams' "I Want My Mommy" is both humorous and affected. Since the band's emphasis has always been on rollicking ensemble playing, tasty little solos and songs with silly or sappy lyrics, there aren't any surprises here — just lots of good music.

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