Musician, photographer, and club/event DJ Dina Regine has bounced from career to career and musical setting to musical setting over the years, frequently bumping into artistic and musical royalty, absorbing and channeling the best of the eras and the genres. For her new disc Right On, Alright she wrote and arranged a batch of appealing songs combining strains of rock, Atlantic Records R&B, and vintage country.
The retro sounds come out of the ’60s and ’70s. Imagine a girl-group hit with a T. Rex bridge and you might get “Gotta Tell You.” The horn and organ-driven “Dial My Number” recalls Wilson Pickett or Johnnie Taylor. The dark, pointed “Can’t Find You Anywhere” echoes the Rolling Stones’ “Heart of Stone” with Ronettes-style harmonies added, and “Hurt Somebody” reminds me of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” The sparse “Fences” could be an escaped garage-band nugget, and “Broken” sounds like something Leiber and Stoller – and Bonnie Raitt – might have had a hand in.
I could go on like that through the whole album, but it’s equally important to note that these are not slavish imitations, but original, compelling songs written and recorded to pay tribute to the great music of the past while showcasing Regine’s top-notch songwriting skills. She wrote most of the songs while reading Keith Richards’s autobiography Life, which makes perfect sense. “Nothing Here,” for example, is a laid-back bluesy Stones-esque number I especially like, with wailing harmonica and slurred vocal delivery à la Mick Jagger.
I also get a kick out of Regine’s sometimes anachronistic references – “Walk Like an Egyptian” in “Until Tomorrow,” “Quinn the Eskimo” in the otherwise unremarkable title track. Not just a fine songwriter and singer, she also has a wide-ranging sensibility infused with the history of the great pop music of the past half century. Right On, Alright is surely one of the top “retro” releases of the year.