Dozzler and van Merwyk – Darkest Night | Album Review

dozzlerandvanmerwykcdDozzler and van Merwyk – Darkest Night

Groove Stew Records

13 Songs; 52:21 Minutes

Styles: Traditional Acoustic Blues, Piano Blues

When one hears the phrase “German-speaking part of the world,” what words leap immediately into one’s mind? ‘Oktoberfest’? ‘Pretzels’? ‘Beer’? ‘Accordions’? More than likely, ‘traditional acoustic and piano blues’ wouldn’t top one’s free-association list. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what Texan Christian Dozzler (born in Vienna, Austria) and Germany’s Michael van Merwyk have set out to change.

Their debut album, Darkest Night, contains more quintessentially U.S. blues than a lot of CD’s from American-born artists. In fact, Merwyk’s band Bluesoul went to Memphis and took home second prize at the 2013 International Blues Challenge – the highest finish ever for a non-American act. In 2008, Dozzler, long pedigreed with Texas bluesmen, was nominated for a Blues Critic Award (USA) as Best Blues Pianist. With such high credentials, how could they fail to impress blues fans worldwide?

Presenting thirteen total songs (seven covers and six originals), they always have good fortune on their side. “Beware!” the back label of the album reads; “Old-school recording, live in the studio. No overdubs.” This disclaimer could either be a warning or a stamp of approval, and for blues purists, it will most likely be the latter. The following three originals highlight Dozzler and van Merwyk’s talents in the keenest way:

Track 02: “I Can’t Sleep” – Insomnia has been fodder for blues tunes ever since the genre was invented. As track two shows, sometimes the reason for a lack of shuteye can be easily discerned: “You couldn’t fool me with your embrace. You’re just the devil with an angel’s face.” Christian Dozzler’s bass piano and van Merwyk’s spicy acoustic guitar are the perfect pair on this up-tempo Chicago-style ditty.

Track 07: “Long Cold Winter” – According to yours truly, this should be the theme song for the polar vortex of 2014: “Long, cold winter and nobody here to keep me warm. Makes me tired of living, make you tired of being alone.” The diagnosis is seasonal depression, but what’s the cure? Perhaps a trip to Florida or Texas: “I’m moving down South, throwing away my winter clothes. You know I don’t mind sweating. I ain’t going to shiver no more.” Citizens nationwide can surely relate.

Track 13: “Darkest Night” – Beautiful and slightly eerie at the same time, this final number is perfect for dancing at the time mentioned in the title. Our narrator is trying to reassure his partner that he won’t leave during times of trouble: “Call my name – I’ll take your hand. Think of me if you need a friend. I’ll be home and sing by your side. I’ll be there in your darkest night.” Rarely has such instrumental simplicity packed so much power.

The only flaw in this release is that several of the songs sound similar – compare selections two and ten. However, for fans who crave their blues ‘straight’ like whiskey, with no rocked-up nonsense, this should brighten their “Darkest Night”!

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