Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tonight at FitzGerald's: The Spampinato Brothers Keep the Poppy Side of NRBQ Alive

Posted By on 03.03.11 at 03:00 PM

Spampinato Brothers
  • Spampinato Brothers
For most of my life NRBQ was one of those "seminal" bands I heard about far more than I actually heard. I appreciated their fearless bar-band aesthetic on paper, but I just never got into their music. It's probably sacrilegious to admit, but I've yet to rectify that situation and dig into their old recordings (the band's studio work was famously inferior to their onstage output—playing shows was their raison d'etre). I'm almost as embarrassed to admit that what's forced me to rethink my dismissal of NRBQ has been a handful of recordings by spin-off groups, released since the band went on hiatus in 2004.

I've written for the Reader about several solo albums by pianist Terry Adams, NRBQ's heart and soul, but the latest record to float my boat is Pie in the Sky (Revolvo), the debut by the Spampinato Brothers—whose lineup includes NRBQ cofounder Joey and his brother Johnny, who played in the group for its final 13 years. The brothers are far less eccentric than Adams—he's a veritable encyclopedia of American music, from rockabilly to free jazz—but their gritty pop-rock is nothing to apologize for. Their bar-band roots help keep the music direct and fat-free, and they deploy their appealingly ragged vocal harmonies on everything from delicate ballads (the bossa nova-kissed "Baby Oh Baby") to pure power pop ("I Say Good Day Goodnight"). The music variously recalls the work of folks like Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, and early Joe Jackson, and a natural-sounding foundation of fierce rock 'n' roll drives the tunes. Below you can listen to one of my faves, "Let Him Think of That."

The Spampinato Brothers—who also include Aaron Spade (Johnny's bandmate in the long-running Incredible Casuals) on guitar and J. Cournoyer on drums—play tonight at the FitzGerald's Side Bar.

"Let Him Think of That":

photo: Anthony Popolo

Today's playlist:

Bobby Sheen, The Bobby Sheen Anthology 1958-1975 (Ace)
Christian Reim, Unreleased Works 1969-1979 (Plastic Strip Press)
Markolino Dimond con Frankie Dante, Beethoven's V (Fania)
Jim Hall, It's Nice to Be With You: Jim Hall in Berlin (MPS)
Arthur Russell, Calling Out of Context (Audika)

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