The new album from the northeast-Iowa blues duo Joe & Vicki Price is called Night Owls, and the cartoonish cover art (by Vicki) features five literally skeletal figures (including a man and woman each with a guitar and amp).
The title couldn't be more appropriate, as the 10-track collection of originals often has the casual feel of a post-midnight jam - intimate, a little on the sleepy side, wholly devoid of self-consciousness. Just two people performing with their guitars, voices, and feet.
The sound is similarly straightforward, unadorned, and unfussy, and some tunes feel so dusty that they're only missing the pops, crackles, and hisses of neglected vinyl or degraded tape. Even though the album was recorded in Nashville, the production is largely (and intentionally) artless.
Yet despite the cheeky cover illustration and lightly electrified tunes that might as well be 60 years old, there's a real vitality in the duo's songs (written, with the exception of "Bones," separately) - and the recordings. The bare-bones (sorry!) instrumentation and the choices in style and singing are employed with rigor, and the more you listen to the album, the more it's apparent how carefully constructed it is.