Making transitions is never easy, and the way Juliet Simmons Dinallo expresses the ups and downs of the human process of moving, changing and growing older is the joy of listening to Dream Girl. There’s tension here, and unresolved matters of the heart and soul: “I don’t have all the answers,” goes one song, and another finds the narrator driving from Nashville to Memphis, accompanied by a groove that evokes the sweet-and-sour styles of both cities. Juliet Simmons Dinallo and Michael Dinallo, who collaborated on three of the songs here (Juliet wrote the rest) sound as though they’re in love with the music of the South, but they’re also in love with the possibilities of transition that soul music has always laid out so eloquently.
Since 2004's Player!, blues-centric guitarist/vocalist Nick Curran left his record label, joined up with Kim Wilson's latest incarnation of the Fabulous T-Birds, performed with his own punk-blues combo Deguello, and basically rumbled and tumbled through a number of sundry side projects, all the while eschewing the solo career that led to him taking home the 2004 W.C. Handy Award for Best New Artist Debut. Clearly, this allowed the ever-musically voracious Curran a chance to stretch his chops and imbibe more of the vast array of influences that spark his interests, from '40s jump blues and '50s rock & roll, to '70s punk and '80s hard rock. All of which Curran brings to bear on his fiendishly inspired, 2010 solo comeback Reform School Girl. A fiery, campy, and insanely rockin' album, Reform School Girl sounds like something along the lines of Little Richard backed by the Misfits with Phil Spector recording the proceedings in his garage.
Although volume four of RPM's Dream Babes series of 1960s British girl group sides gets further into obscure flops than its predecessors, there's barely any drop in the quality, which remains good, though hardly great. And as with most of the rest of the songs on this series, the production's better than the singers or the material. That's not to say there aren't some pretty good cuts on this 22-song anthology, some of them explicitly derivative of the American girl group sound (like the Chantelles' cracking "I Want That Boy," a cover of an obscure U.S. single by Sadina), others taking a pop-soul approach, others mixing in some British beat music.