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Duke Robillard - Passport to the Blues
Stony Plain Records
13 tracks; 64:23 minutes; Splendid
Styles: Guitar driven, Horn laced Electric Blues
I’m wondering if winning the Blues Music Award for 2010 Best Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year made Duke Robillard feel guilty. Perhaps he decided he owed the voting members a gritty Blues album after spending so much of his recent career exploring what liner notes author Ted Drozdowski calls, “experimental music.”
Economics 101 teaches that with most commodities, scarcity usually increases value. This is Duke’s seventeenth album in seventeen years for the Stony Plain label. He has learned to make recordings fast and economical in his Rhode Island studio. So, maybe there is enough demand for more Robillard recordings so that excess supply is not a problem. Indeed, he is a popular guitarist; he’s a four time winner of BMA’s “Blues Guitarist of the Year.” As a singer, he’s no John Németh, but his leathery vocals are serviceable.
Born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, in 1948, Robillard’s biography touts an amazing 44-years-to-date career. Duke had his first band in high school, when, in 1967, he formed “Roomful of Blues.” Along the way, Duke has played, recorded, and produced every style of Roots Music that can be named with a pantheon of famous musicians. Notably, in 1990, Robillard joined the Fabulous Thunderbirds replacing Jimmy Vaughan, but even then, he continued to record and tour as a solo artist.
“Passport to the Blues” consists of thirteen tracks; the best one is the last one called a bonus track, “Bradford Boogie.” Of those tracks, Robillard either wrote or co-wrote twelve of them (all but two written in just two weeks), and the only cover was written by the legendary Tom Waits. Selected first for the Friends of the Blues Radio Show, “Bradford Boogie” is a romping and chugging instrumental with only Duke on guitar and Mark Teixeira on drums. Reports Duke in the liner notes, “...just like John Lee Hooker and Lightning Hopkins. The tune’s all about feeling and no rules,.... Playing that way gives you an incredible amount of freedom.”
Our second song aired was the humorous (or maybe Duke was 100 % serious) “When You’re Old You’re Cold.” Here Duke reminds the girls that just because a man is older does not mean he’s not a good lover. There may be snow on the roof (white hair), there’s still fire in the furnace (you get it).
“Grey Sky Blues” is a standout slow Blues number running over eight minutes and showcasing some Buddy Guy inspired guitar playing. It’s at a level we should expect from a four time “Best” winner.
The song writing for the album got a kick-start from an audit by the Internal Revenue Service. “That got me started writing for the album,” reports Duke. “I figured if that’s not the Blues, what is.” Duke’s taxpayer Blues is titled “Working Hard for My Uncle [Sam].”
When Duke puts out a CD, his legion fans will gobble it up. Here, this time, everyone gets to enjoy some refreshing real Blues from the Dukester.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE
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