The rockabilly scorcher “Lookout” blazes out of the gates and introduces the listener to Dex and Sara, a brother-sister team playing stripped down rock and roll. Dex is far from a newbie, having inspired the likes of The White Stripes and The Black Keys with his influential band Flat Duo Jets. His newest effort, Ruins of Berlin, his first with his sister, has its fist firmly planted in southern Americana, with tears-in-your-beer lyrics about heartache, regret, and then a little more heartache for good measure.
Ruins of Berlin bounces between sashaying ballads (“Camillia’s Gone”), surf shaking instrumentals (“Cigarette Party”) and mid-tempo laments (“Picture of You”). The duo even calls up the gusto to venture into gypsy-folk-rock-land on the title track and “Polish Work Song”.
They do invite some friends along to help out: Cat Power’s dripping with pain vocals on “Love Letters” blends with Dex’s six-strings wonderfully. Then again Exene Cervenka’s couldn’t-care-less-vocal non-effort on “Lonesome Train” should have been discarded. While the playing is top notch, Dex’s own vocals, at times, come across as too dramatic for what the song calls for, adding a weird and almost show tune vibe to some tracks. Overall it is a solid effort for the duo, with top notch production and a few odd vocal choices; but it is far from the ruin implied in its title.
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