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Review: NRBQ, Keep This Love Goin’

Keep This Love Goin’
[Clang! (2011)]

Throat cancer caused Terry Adams to put NRBQ, the band he’d led since 1967, on hold in August 2004. But, since obtaining a “clean bill of health,” following a year of holistic therapy and hard-core radiation at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the pianist/keyboardist/vocalist has steadily climbed back to then heights of his musical vision. With the first new NRBQ album since 2004’s Dummy, the jovial spirit and seamless rock, blues, country, jazz, and pop blend that made NRBQ “the greatest bar band on the planet” is resurrected. Though founding bassist Joey Spampinato and his brother, Johnny, who played guitar for the band from 1994 to 2004, declined to participate and drummer Tom Andolino played on only two tracks (and drew the CD cover), the CD is very much in line with the close to 40 studio, live, and compilations in the band’s discography. Adams’s piano and keyboard playing remains a unique mix of enthusiasm and technical brilliance. Newcomers—Chicago’s Scott Ligon (guitar, bass, vocals), Austin-based Conrad Choucrous (drums, background vocals), and Philadelphia-based Pete Donnelly (bass, guitar, vocals) (who is also a member of the Figgs)—add new sounds, but the music remains firmly entrenched in the band’s legacy.

“Boozoo And Leona,” one of eight tunes written or co-written by Adams, opens the CD with an uptempo and shuffling tribute to the late Zydeco accordionist Boozoo Chavis, for whom Adams produced three CDs in the 1990s, and his wife, Leona. The CD ends with a version of Piano Red (William Perrymen)’s instrumental, “Red’s Piano,” which Terry Adams learned from the Atlanta-born blues pianist (1911-1985) in the 1970s. In between is the usual eclectic mix of NRBQ-treated tunes, skipping from a rockabilly piece (“Sweet And Petite”) to a pop ballad (“My Life With You”), featuring Tyrone Hill on trombone and Dave Gordon on trumpet, to a country rocker (“Every Dream”) based on Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 In B-flat Minor.” Throw in a silly children’s tune, “The Animal Life,” by Scott Ligon, and you’ve got a collection fitting squarely into the NRBQ discography.

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

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