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MODERN 20-727; FEBRUARY, 1950



Yet another offering from Floyd Dixon which sits uneasily in the roll call of rock songs, yet is no better fit elsewhere.

He’s making a habit of this and depending on your point of view shows he’s unwilling to be pigeonholed or unable to make up his mind.

Since all songs with no firm stylistic ground to stand on run the risk of being shunned from any discussion focusing on a single style, this means some genre’s history needs to open up its doors to let records like this in if only so they don’t roam around for an eternity in search of a warm bed.


No Place To Go
As rock ‘n’ roll’s parameters become more clearly defined with each month it naturally becomes harder to squeeze in records like this and if not for Dixon’s earlier – and subsequent – work that’s more closely aligned with rock then, open door policy or not, this might be left out.

But that’s not to say that Roamin’ Around is not a fairly solid effort even if it’s another dreary side thematically as well as musically, making this release one that should’ve come with a warning for those prone to depression to stay away.

As with many of these types of songs that Dixon tackles, it splits the difference between rock balladry and cocktail blues, the other genre that Floyd seems to be constantly flirting with but perhaps is finding harder to be accepted there due to his stuffy nasal passages which has the unfortunate tendency to detract from the sentiments he’s serving up, even if you could reasonably claim the misery he shows on these records resulted in him crying which led to that condition in the first place.

Nah, I guess that wouldn’t be too convincing a selling point at that.

So we’re left to try and overlook his technical shortcomings in the vocal department and focus instead on what he’s telling us rather than how he’s putting it across and once again this has the right idea but doesn’t contain much in the way of insightful revelations.


He’s complaining about bad treatment from a girl again which seems to be his lot in life as this one swipes his money in addition to treating him like dirt in general. He finally gets up the resolve to tell her to hit the road but by the sounds of it he’s sadder about that outcome than she is.

As a result he’s wandering the countryside, looking for either solace or maybe a new girl to eventually break his heart.

Naturally, being kind and decent people, we won’t add insult to injury by ridiculing his choice in women or his apparent willingness to put up with such disrespect for far too long just so he gets an occasional night of action between the sheets, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give him some friendly advice to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

For starters, maybe women are just not your thing, Floyd. I’m not suggesting he try his own gender for romance if he’s not inclined to find them attractive, especially since men have a reputation for being boorish clods in general, but rather that he simply do without companionship of any kind for awhile and focus on something else… drawing charcoal sketches, doing some bird watching or perhaps taking up racquetball. Anything to stop dwelling on his loneliness.

Failing that however maybe it’s best to remember that in any relationship the first step towards lasting happiness is being confident of your own self-worth. That alone will cure a lot of troubles because women won’t see you as a hapless mope who is willing to settle for lying, cheating and disreputable partners just to avoid standing in the stag line at the Valentine’s Day dance.

You Thought I Would Stick By You
But since Dixon is already in this predicament with an unfaithful girl who has sticky fingers to boot, I suppose the least we can do is listen to his plight and hope there’s a silver lining in all that despondency.

For that we turn to the music which while certainly bleak sounding as is fitting for the track, is at least well judged and provides us with a limited amount of distraction from Floyd’s rather unimaginative sob story.

Dixon’s own piano playing leads this off, backed by guitar and drums, all of which fit together nicely as Floyd gets to show off his nimble fingers with some good – even lively – runs that help to off-set some of the despair, at least until you realize that there’ll be no surprising variations found within Roamin’ Around and that the record is sort of like standing on the middle of a teeter-totter trying not to let either side hit the ground so the other side can lift up to something more optimistic sounding.

This is the dilemma of all songs of this nature, you can’t betray the underlying mood simply to inject a section that is more uplifting, but without that glimmer of sunshine in the arrangement then you’re left with nothing but grey skies and dark clouds and that’s hardly the most enjoyable way to spend your day.

That said there are at least some things to admire from all of them musically. Dixon is a good pianist who doesn’t always get his due in that regard because he tended to focus more on vocals, but he shows throughout this, especially in his extended solo, that he’s got a nice touch and good melodic instincts. Likewise the guitar, perhaps played by Tiny Webb, features some haunting tones – distant almost to the point of detachment which makes them sound cruelly mocking of his dire situation at times, like a patient vulture circling above waiting for him to collapse so he can have a leisurely meal on the carcass.

But while that certainly is an evocative scene it’s hardly an inviting one and seeing as how this is backed by another equally morbid tune there’s simply no respite from the mood and so while each side taken alone might be more tolerable, when paired together your impression of them can’t help but suffer.


I Had To Put You Down
Dixon’s output for Modern Records has tended to head in this stylistic direction which either means the Bihari brothers were pushing him to record this brand of music because they felt it represented their best chance to market him, or else Dixon himself used their willingness to put it out as an excuse to explore this style without interference.

But while some of it was commercially successful it remains an awkward fit in the dominant genres of the day, even as it contains enough elements from multiple styles to be acceptable on their fringes.

Roamin’ Around however isn’t something that would likely benefit even if there was a clearer option for its placement. It’s competent in most ways without excelling in any of them. Dixon’s vocals aren’t quite soulful enough to compete with the best rock ballads and the lyrics offer mostly surface impressions rather than deeper psychological insight. The musical side of the equation contains the record’s best moments but even that can’t help but suffer from the pall that hangs over it from start to finish.

Music of course touches on every human emotion, upbeat and downcast alike, so we can’t fault Floyd Dixon for exploring the latter from time to time and although they’ll get the same grade I probably do like this side slightly better than the flip, but then again there’s only so much gloom and misery you can take.

The overriding rule of selling records is that you need to present music that is compelling in one way or another, something that spurs you into listening to a song again and again. If the road you choose is to be sad then you better really pull at the listeners heartstrings until you’ve gotten those on the outside looking in to sympathize with you, while allowing those who are facing similar problems to empathize with what you’re describing and take some comfort in knowing they’re not the only ones sorting through these feelings.

But when you pour it on too heavy on both sides of a single release then more often than not you’ll make people uncomfortable listening for too long and while they might feel bad about turning their back on you in your time of trouble, the fact is, nobody wants to suffer this much if they don’t have to.


(Visit the Artist page of Floyd Dixon for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)