Rhythm Spell is the second in a series of riffs on the recent activities of Terry Adams: singer, songwriter, bandleader, master keyboardist and record producer, long associated with the omni-pop genius of NRBQ, now fronting his own Terry Adams Rock n’ Roll Quartet.
By the time Terry Adams sings the line, “I love [big pause] every day,” on “Outta Here,” the jazz-inflected closer of 2007’s Rhythm Spell (Clang! 2007) you’re prepared to believe him. You’re prepared to believe that you’ve been let in on the things the NRBQ co-founder, keyboardist and songwriter loves to do, which is not to suggest that his musical predilections were held in check during his many years with the Q. If you dig Adams, it’s for the foxiness you came to know from that band’s under-appreciated output, his ability to play a lot of popular music styles well and never take himself too seriously in the process.
Rhythm Spell is consistent with that m.o. but like its successor, Holy Tweet (Clang! 2009, reviewed here on June 5th), it’s more energized and dare I say it, more interesting than the Q were in their latter years. The range of emotional calibrations, whether the dial is set to the sweet, layered pop of “One Shoe” or “1400 miles,” the south of the border goofiness of “Give Pancho a Little Kiss,” or the green messaging of “Nature’s Gonna Pay You Back,” never sounds arch or forced.
There’s a winsome sincerity in Adams’ recent work that rings true in every phrase, every note. You return to “Nature’s Gonna Pay You Back,” with its spoken word preamble: “I’ve been told by the young and old/that the streets of gold are lined with heaven,” for the moment right after the pause when Adams starts rocking his piano, and fellow NRBQ alum Tommy Ardolino (drums) and veteran bassist T. Bone Wolk pick up the groove with hand claps and choruses that echo the title phrase.
And finally, you believe Adams is having the time of his life because in not one but two songs, the opening number, “Howard Hughes,” and “A Girl Who Loves the Stooges,” the maestro celebrates apparent comic favs, the Three Stooges. Not only does Adams work the word “sabatoogee” into the mix, but dig this couplet:
How come Shirley don’t dig Curly?
I’d ask her to marry if she just dug Larry
Whether or not the singer finds such a girl or there’s such a thing as a useful umbrella are just some of the themes that make up Adams’ ruminations on Rhythm Spell, which sounds less like a furlough from the Q than it does the beginning of a second life.