Just Friends, May 28, 2016
Bullay ad Mosel, Weingut Stein, Germany

What an incredible night. The weather was picture perfect and the view from the historic winery atop the Bullay slopes was breathtaking. Built on an ancient Roman settlement, the village of Bullay is part of the Mosel wine region known for its quality wines and steep slopes where grapes are grown and harvested. An evening with duo Inga Rumpf and Halmut Krumminga called Just Friends was hosted by Ulrich Stein in his spacious stone mansion. The night was to become a vivid exploration of blues, rock and folk by two legendary performers - icons of classic German ‘70s rock. Inga Rumpf began her career as a member of late-sixties folk group The City Preachers before forming heavy blues band, Frumpy. After successful tours with Humble Pie, Spooky Tooth and Yes, the group disbanded only to partially reform three years later as Atlantis. Helmut Krumminga is a jazz/rock guitarist that spent 15 years playing lead with premiere German rock band, BAP.

Together the pair has fine-tuned a two-hour set to include the blues roots of rock and roll mixed with a half dozen original Rumpf compositions and seasoned with a few classics uniquely arranged to fit an intimate setting. As the audience settled into their seats Krumminga picked up his acoustic guitar and positioned himself on a bar stool while Rumpf slid in behind the piano. After a brief, but humorous introduction the two melted into the 1966 Ray Charles hit “I Don’t Need No Doctor”. They opted for the original rhythm and blues arrangement rather than the aggressive Humble Pie FM staple. The power of Rumpf’s voice was superb as they transitioned in Taj Mahal’s “Cakewalk into Town” followed by the appropriate Motown hit, “It Takes Two”. “Love Is Gold” which first appeared on Frumpy’s News album and “No Cross–No Crown” from Inga’s Easy on My Soul (2005) CD displayed the singer’s enchanting songwriting style. All the while Krumminga’s accompaniment moved gracefully from picking and strumming to harmony and leads.

The jazz inspired “Down And Out” (Jimmy Cox) and Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” was a thrilling step back in time. The musicians not only complemented the originals, but did so with respect for timbre and tone. Three recent Rumpf compositions closed out the first set of the evening including “Lazy”, “In the 25th Hour” and “Come and Go”. All three have been on her set list, in relatively the same order, for at least a decade. Pulling from Rumpf’s love of soulful jazz, “Lazy” was a sultry mood setter. Stripped to its basic elements and focused on the vocals, the song became emotionally intoxicating. Landing somewhere between bluegrass, country and folk “In the 25th Hour” moved the tempo up a notch, where the beat easily shifted into the blues scorcher “Come and Go”. The song first made its debut on Rumpf’s Easy on My Soul release and has remained a fan favorite ever since. In traditional measure, its raw verse and hook chorus was woven into the tapestry of the vocals that made it divine.

After a short 20-minute intermission, the duo returned to the stage. A whisper through the crowd hinted that the second set would be more riveting than the first, if that was even possible. Krumminga’s guitar picked through a brief acoustic treatment of Linkin Park’s “The Messenger” then moved into his solo reworking of Bad Company’s “Seagull”. It was immediately apparent the second half would be slightly more contemporary than the first. “Love Hurts” known to most as a hit single by Nazareth, grew into a passionate, unforgettable duet between the two performers leaving a wave of goosebumps in its wake. Rumpf continued to cast her spell with a cover of “The Worrier” (Joe Cocker), “Friends” (Atlantis) and John Hyatt’s “Have A Little Faith”. Yet, it was her rendition of Nina Simone’s “Mr. Backlash Blues” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” that brought the house down.

An exuberant encore brought both back for a lively version of Rumpf’s solo hit “My Life Is a Boogie” with it’s dirty raucous blues riff and foot-stompin’ rhythmic beat. A pleasant surprise was the inclusion of Gary Moore’s “Still Got the Blues (For You)”. Krumminga did a brilliant job capturing the original mood of the song’s mournful guitar cry while Rumpf breathed new life into the Irish-penned lyrics. Together they produced a fitting tribute and graceful eulogy. One could almost predict the closing number as the intro to Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” filled the room. Rumpf’s voice was full and timeless. Her way of interpreting a song, embracing it, and making it her own has been her career’s fulfillment. Krumminga was the perfect partner showcasing his guitar finesse, tremendous blues chops and leathery baritone. When the candles faded, the audience felt graced by their presence.

Website: Inga Rumpf, Helmut Krumminga, Weingut Stein, Germany