Iris Romen – Vintage Gal Hour (2012)

FrontCover1Looking at the cover photo, you could be excused for thinking “Vintage Gal Hour” is an album from the Golden Fifties. A classically-cut dress, a bow around the waist and a headband in the hair, eyes gazing longingly into the distance – that is how IriS Romen presents herself on the cover of her debut solo album. The pose in retro-look is a stylistic reference to the sound that awaits us behind the CD’s cellophane – with its invocation of music genres from decades gone by, it also has an anachronistic feel to it at first. Does IriS Romen have a place in the present at all, with her revisiting of the vintage sound of past epochs? But of course! And how! Because let’s be honest – don’t we all have a little of this lovable little Dutch girl in us just longing to get out? Doesn’t she appeal to all our yearnings for yesteryear and the undeniable advantages it had? In a word: yes! In an age of emotionally detached, fully digitised technology, she strikes straight at the heart with her genuine, hand-made songs.

IrisRomen01Her heart-warming music with the old-vinyl feel satisfies that hunger for true emotions so pervasive today, and that makes it modern and up-to-the-minute. What IriS Romen has recorded here in Berlin together with producer Johnny Bluth (Johnny Trouble Trio) and her musician friends over a period of almost two years and using old analogue equipment reveals a profound knowledge of the 50s and 60s. We hear Old-Time Country in a style reminiscent of Kitty Wells (“You Stole My Heart”) and Loretta Lynn (“Growing Pains”), are highly entertained by the nostalgically jazzy (“I Found You In Fall”), delight in string sounds à la Hank Marvin of The Shadows (“Tabou”) and encounter twang guitars like the ones from those old Spaghetti Westerns (“Dance With Me”). But the best thing about the songs is that IriS Romen doesn’t simply rinse and repeat the influences of her idols, she recreates them again from scratch in her own imagination. Despite numerous quotes and cross-references, “Vintage Gal Hour” is completely and utterly IriS Romen. She wrote all the tracks on this solo album herself and is blessed with a wonderful, natural, unmistakable voice that renders pointless any comparisons with stars from the past.

IrisRomen02Iris Romen discovered at a very early age that the music from the early 20th century struck a chord in her. She would sing along ardently when her father put on LPs at home, and she loved doing famous musicals in school performances. It was experiences like those that led, in her teenage years, to her resolve to make singing her career one day. After graduating school she studied jazz vocalisation with Janice Lakers at the Maastricht music academy and classical singing with Marie-José Van De Beuken, while also financing private lessons with vocal coach Anne Bruning by working in a supermarket (where she once even served André Rieu). During this phase, her love of old jazz emerged.

She also came to know and love the Brecht interpretations of Kurt Weill, Paul Dessau and Hanns Eisler during this time, and was introduced to the world of Jump ‘n’ Jive, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues as a guest singer in Ray Collins’ Hot Club. In 2004, IriS Romen, who had by then also learned how to play the double bass, moved to the German capital where she still lives today. Saturdays she takes the packed Clärchens Ballhaus, the historical dance hall that Quentin Tarantino used as a set in “Inglourious Basterds”, through rousing dance evenings as the lead vocalist of the Ballhaus Band. She also broadens her spectrum as a member of the girl group The Runaway Brides (often to be seen supporting BossHoss) and Ben Becker’s background band. Now the time is ripe for an international solo career. “I believe in the timelessness of everything that is done and viewed with the heart.” That is what IriS Romen says of her solo debut. On it she strikes exactly the tone of her favourite ages, while remaining on the cutting edge of the present with every note. Very few manage that balancing act, but on “Vintage Gal Hour” Iris Romen succeeds immaculately. (by grooveattack.com)

Oh, Iris … let me be your strange boy ….

Booklet01APersonnel:
Ricco Baader (guitar)
Sascha Bachmann (drums)
Felix Berchthold (guiar)
Christian Betancourt (percussion)
Johnny Bluth (guitar, harmonica, glockenspiel, drums, percussion)
Dalai Cellai (cello)
Matthias Geserick (bass)
Iris Romen (vocals, guitar, piano, glockenspiel, bass, cowbell)
Tall Tony (bass)

Booklet08ATracklist:
01. Dance With Me 3.37
02. Love Catastrophe 1.33
03. You Stole My Heart 2.39
04. Clouds 4.52
05. Iris’ Song 3.20
06. Bird Of Freedom 2.35
07. Tabou 3.14
08. Starnight 3.34
09. I Found You In Fall 2.19
10. Strange Boy 4.06
11. Growing Pains 2.45
12. Last Song 11.34

All songs written by Iris Romen

CD1*
**

Booklet09A

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