In Chris Duarte's musical view, the journey is as important as the destination, maybe even more so. Since emerging in the mid-1990s from Austin, Texas, a blues guitar hotbed, Duarte has forged new pathways for the blues and scouted numerous fresh trails for creative musical expression. Lauded for the exquisite artistry and vivid tonality of his six-string work, over the last decade Duarte has also proven his considerable mettle as a songwriter, singer and bandleader.
The sum total of his talents prompted Blues Access to extol him as a "genius," but Duarte sees his work in a much more basic and fluid context. "I'm a musician who is still out there searching for better ways to get from point A to point B, and better my craft. I'm just not content staying in one place."
On Romp, the second Zoë/Rounder release from the Chris Duarte Group, the band and its pilot tear it up across an abundance of locales on the musical map. Produced by Dennis Herring--who manned the boards for Texas Sugar/Strat Magik, Duarte's debut album--the disc is draped with the proverbial Delta kudzu found in Oxford, Mississippi, where it was recorded.
What Duarte refers to as "that funky North Mississippi thing they've got going on" pervades the opening title track, written by Junior Kimbrough, on which Duarte and company ramp up the metallic volume of juke joint blues. What follows includes a syncopated Latin groove on "Fire's Gone Out," a haunting rendition of Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee," the classic Texas shuffle of "Bb Blues," and the closing gospel grace note of "Take It To The Lord."