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Inside Out: What Is This Thing?

Dan McClenaghan By

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Inside Out: What Is This Thing? Inside Out, a Canadian guitar/bass/drums combo led by drummer Barry Romberg, covers some time-tested standards in a understated yet unconventional style without going avant, a sort of cruise just within the radar sound that, with its low-burn intensity, flirts with familiar melodies in an oblique fashion, maintaining the thread just enough to keep you bothered, and listening.

What Is This Thing?, on multiple listens—it twists your arm into this—proves itself a prime example of low key intensity, a insistently propulsively democratic trio affair with guitarist Lorne Lofsky supplying the wandering ruminations on the melodies, drummer Romberg painting subtle colors and weaving delicate textures around the pulse.

"Autumn Leaves," "Solar," and "All Blues," are covered here, all Miles Davis tunes—or a familiar Davis vehicle, in the case of "...Leaves"—and the mood of the set is decidedly cool, though the one burner on the set is "All Blues", with the burn sneaking up on you before you know it.

Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?" gets an abstract and piquant treatment; and the feeling is, throughout the disc, that of narrow musical constraints laid down, as if the group sound is churning along down a gleaming hallway, walled in, with the players slipping and sliding along the baseboards, contrarily refusing to stay in the middle, though they—just to tease—swerve there from time to time.

A bothersome set in that it sounds at first like it could slip onto a background music shelf; but it keeps reaching out and nudging you, tugging your ears toward that Inside Out sound.

Visit Barry Romberg on the web at www.barryromberg.com .


Track Listing: Autumn Leaves, what Is This Thing Called Love, Golden Earrings, All Blues, One For Ed, Solar, Turn Out The Stars, All the Things You Are

Personnel: Barry Romberg--drums; Lorne Lofsky--guitar; Kieran Overs--bass

Title: What Is This Thing? | Year Released: 2004


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