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Dexys come by their dramatic and ever-evolving sound and approach naturally seeing as they're a revamped version of Kevin Rowland's epochal '80s group Dexys Midnight Runners. Beginning with their 2012 debut album, One Day I'm Going to Soar, they pulled together strands of soul music, Irish folk, new wave, and rambling rock, then topped the resulting brew with a healthy dollop of Rowland's one-of-a-kind vocals and his unsparing lyrics. The group's take on Irish classic and pop standards on Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul showed off Rowland's skills as an interpreter. 2023's The Feminine Divine explored his relationships with women and sex, adding funk and R&B influences to the mix. Dexy's Midnight Runners were mercurial and ever-changing, following Rowland's wandering, yet tightly focused muse down whichever path it led. They shifted members and sounds frequently as they moved from the amped-up, horn-led soul revival of 1980's Searching for the Young Soul Rebels to the Celtic-influenced pop of 1982's Too-Rye-Ay and its huge hit single "Come On Eileen." The band shrunk to a trio for 1985's Don't Stand Me Down, an iconoclastic modern pop record that confounded critics and fans at the time but has become something of a classic since. Rowland shifted to a solo career soon after, releasing the typically iconoclastic album The Wanderer in 1998, then taking a bit of a break until returning with a collection of cover songs titled My Beauty, released on the Creation label in 1999. A new lineup of Dexy's Midnight Runners began playing live shows and contributed two songs ("Manhood" and "My Life in England") to the greatest-hits collection Let's Make This Precious. The group included former Runners Mick Talbot and Pete Williams along with viola player Lucy Morgan. They started work on another album, but the process was halting, and they only got down to business in 2011 when the band, now going by the name Dexys, returned to the studio and completed the 2012 album One Day I'm Going to Soar. Along the way, another former member, "Big" Jim Paterson, rejoined, and Rowland added new vocalist Madeleine Hyland. The suitably dramatic and rollicking album found both Rowland's voice and pen undiminished by time and circumstance. It was met with a positive response from critics and signaled a triumphant comeback for the band. After a full slate of concerts over the next few years and the usual changes in personnel (subtract Talbot, Paterson, Hyland, and Williams, and co-singer Sean Read) the group's next move was to record Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul. Released by Rhino in June 2016, the record features their unique versions of classic Irish songs (like "Women of Ireland" and "Carrickfergus") and a wide range of others (like Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All") all given equal weight and sung and played with heartfelt tenderness. In the years that followed Rowland worked on a reissue of My Beauty and spent extended time in Thailand. His expanding views on love, sex, and masculinity, in part inspired by his experiences there, were paired with a batch of songs that revived the early soul sound of Dexys Midnight Runners and expanded into new areas like deep funk, contemporary R&B, and smooth soul. Working with mainstays Big Jim Paterson and Sean Read, as well as newcomer Mike Timothy, Dexys' 2023 album The Feminine Divine proved that Rowland's questing spirit hadn't come close to being quenched and his music was still challenging and thrilling in equal amounts.
© Steve Huey & Tim Sendra /TiVo


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