Review: NRBQ – Keep This Love Goin’ (Clang, 2011)
After a seven-year hiatus that included health issues for Terry Adams, side projects for Joey Spampinato and the virtual retirement of Tom Ardolino, NRBQ has reformed and renewed. Spampinato joined up full time with his brother in the Spampinato Brothers, and Ardolino released himself from the rigors of touring, leaving Adams to rebuild the band with new partners. Initially billed under their leader’s name, the new quartet cut its teeth in gigs and the studio before Adams felt they captured grooves worthy of the name “NRBQ.” Adams’ new bandmates are guitarist Scott Ligon, bassist Pete Donnely and drummer Conrad Choucroun. Ligon and Donnely also add vocals and songwriting, making this a group, rather than a showcase for Adams.
Happily, the new quartet has captured the eclectic mix that made the original band so intoxicating. Leading off the album is Adams’ tribute to New Orleans legend Boozoo Chavis and his wife Leona, with Choucroun propelling the song with a terrific second line rhythm. Just as this parade passes by the band turns to the pure pop of “Keep This Love Goin’” and “Here I Am,” offering up shades of the Raspberries, Beach Boys and Gary Lewis. There’s rockabilly rhythm guitar and a touch of Carl Perkins’ lead style on “I’m Satisfied,” and the slap-rhythm of “Sweet and Petite” sounds like country came down the mountain to wax some rock ‘n’ roll.
Less successful are the supper-club tunes “Gone with the Wind” and “My Life with You,” neither of which gets the polished crooning they deserve. Still, Adams jazzy piano and a trumpet/trombone solo on the latter are superb, and you have to appreciate the band’s reach. The album closes with Piano Red’s “Red’s Piano,” a tune taught to Adams by Red himself, and fleshed out here by Adams’ piano and Ligon’s guitar. Fans looking for the sound of Adams, Spampinato, Anderson and Ardolino won’t find it here, but they will find the spontaneity, humor, breadth and musical know-how that earned NRBQ the label “best bar band in the world.”