Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones – Double Down – 20th Anniversary Reissue
Blue Bella Records
16 songs – 76 minutes
What a treat. A re-release of Doug Deming’s blistering debut release from 2002, with four bonus live tracks recorded at the original CD release party at Fifth Avenue Billiards in Royal Oak, MI, in October 2002.
Deming has always been comfortable treading a thrilling line between traditional blues, West Coast and Texas swing, and early 50’s roots rock and this CD has it all. The studio tracks feature Deming on vocals and guitar throughout, ably supported by Dale Jennings on upright bass, Don Gruendler Jr on drums, Brian Miller and Gregg “Fingers” Taylor on harmonica, Denny Freeman on piano and Chris Codish on organ. Producers Steve Mugalian and Rick Holmstrom add percussion to “Blackjack” and jump guitar to the riotous closing instrumental, “Double Down”, respectively. The live tracks feature Deming and Taylor with Bob Conner on upright and Fender bass and Jason Gittinger on drums.
Of course, Deming is widely recognized as a virtuoso guitarist and first rate singer, and his skills are on open display on Double Down, from the jump blues of the opening “Goodbye Baby” and “You Don’t Even Care” to the funky “Blackjack” where he channels T-Birds-era Jimmy Vaughan and the T-Bone Walker-inspired “It’s A Crime”.
Deming is also generous with ensuring that all the musicians get to stretch out. There is a lot great harmonica on the album, from Taylor’s aching solo on the slow blues of “Let Me Be”, to Miller, not to be overshadowed, laying down some great lines on the speeding train rumble of “HDF”, which also features a drum solo from Gruendler.
The self-written songs are all top quality, from the memorable guitar riff that introduces the jumping “You Don’t Even Care”, to the jazzy instrumental, “All About The Digits.” For added impact, on the live recording of “You Don’t Even Care”, the melody is echoed by Taylor’s deft harmonica. There are very few simple 12-bar routines here. Every track has something quirky and memorable in its structure, whether it be the guitar/harp interplay on “Mr. Blues”, or the clever shift from a single note intro riff to the jazzy verse structure of “Make It Last.”
It’s hard to believe that Double Down is 20 years old. Thanks in no small part to the excellent production from Holmstrom and Mugalian, engineering by Glenn Nishida and mastering by David Torrey, the recording (made at Pacifica Studios in Culver City, CA) fair leaps out of the speakers at you. Perhaps because it was the debut recording of a young and hungry band, there is a also rare vitality and energy about the entire project.
Frankly, you should probably already own a copy of Double Down, but the four live tracks make this reissue also an essential purchase. If you haven’t explored the music of Doug Deming yet, Double Down is a great place to start.