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NRBQ does it again with great new album 'Brass Tacks'

Just when great albums seem to be going out of style, NRBQ has done it again.

Norm DeMaura

Brass Tacks, which was released June 17 on the Clang! label, is terrific through and through. As usual, it’s a collection of great tunes--12 to be exact—all original except for the Rodgers & Hammerstein King and I classic “Getting to Know You.”

“Sometimes I just hear something and go, ‘Ah! I’m going to do something with that someday,’” says keyboardist/vocalist Terry Adams, who founded the band NRBQ (it stands for New Rhythm & Blues Quartet, though rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, country and pop are just as much a part of it) in 1966.

“It’s just a matter of finding the right time,” he continues. “You don’t think about it, and there it is.”

The same can be said for NRBQ. Now comprised of seven-year vets Scott Ligon (guitar and vocals) and drummer Conrad Choucroun, and bassist/vocalist Casey McDonough (in the band since 2012), the trusty quartet remains a constant factor in the lives of “Q” fans everywhere, who turn out at gigs without a second thought.

And the venerable group has never sounded better than on Brass Tacks, which is described by Adams as “just NRBQ music,” i.e., songs that are “upbeat, powerful, happy, and filled with love.”

And as usual, full of surprises. Lead track “Waitin’ on My Sweetie Pie” swings with a distinctly ‘60s French pop keyboard feel. “I’m Not Here” unexpectedly breaks into Ligon’s fretless banjo solo. “Fightin’ Back” sounds like a mix of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard Bakersfield Sound, and is marked by one-of-a-kind musician Adams’ guitar-like country clavinet leads.

“This record is right where we are, so up-to-date it’s scary!” says Adams. “It’s hot-wired to our hearts.”

He evokes Duke Ellington’s observation that jazz is the music of personalities.

“The same is true about NRBQ’s music,” he says. “The sound comes from the personalities and the way the music is played. There’s a specific way that NRBQ music is meant to be played—and that’s the sound.”

On Brass Tacks, there’s also a specific way that NRBQ music is meant to be heard.

“People are now putting out just singles or EPs, but I’m old-fashioned,” says Adams. “I still want to do a whole album of songs that are good and that I like. A good, old-fashioned listen to music is really good for you, and that’s what we’re doing.”

“It’s a love album,” Adams affirms.

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