The year was 1966. The place was the Kentucky home of pianist Terry Adamsn The event was the formation of the New Rhythm & Blues Quartet. Three years later they released their self-titled debut album for the Columbia label.
Now nearly 50 years, over 20 studio albums, and thousands of live performances into their career, the one constant has been Adams. A number of musicians have been a part of the band but he has remained the driving force behind the music. In addition to Adams, the current line-up features guitarist Scott Ligon, bassist Casey McDonough, and drummer Conrad Choucroun.
The best word to describe NRBQ’s music down through the years is versatility. Their music has explored rockabilly, jazz, blues, rock, pop, and even a little Tin Pan Alley thrown in for good measure. Their new album, Brass Tacks, may not cover all those styles but it retains the quirky blend of upbeat music that has become their landmark.
There are two non-original compositions out of the 14 tracks. The best is an inventive cover of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tune “Getting To Know You,” which they turn into a fun-filled romp.
The originals travel in a number of directions. “Waitin’ On My Sweetie Pie” is a nice acoustic piece. “Sit In My Lap” is pop at its best. “Greetings From Delaware” is the band in rock mode. Adams reaches back to a song he wrote at the age of 15 with the jazzy “Places Far Away.” Adams and Ligon co-wrote “I’m Not Here,” which looks at peace and tranquility away from our busy world. The gem of the bunch is Adams’ “This Flat Tire,” which is his latest in a long-line of car songs.
NRBQ has been producing enjoyable music for almost half a century now. Brass Tacks is another inventive album that may not push the limits of American music, but makes it a lot more fun.