DUKE ROBILLARD & FRIENDS
Stony Plain Records
“Nothing Fancy?” Nah … This is The Rhythm & Blues Supreme!
Michael John Robillard recently turned 72 years of age and shows no signs of slowing down.
Being the co-founder (with Al Copley) of Roomful of Blues back in 1967, ‘Duke’ has consistently produced a lifetime of great blues music. With well over 30 albums as leader or co-leader of bands and then another 30+ with various other bands and individuals, delivering great guitar and vocals on each and everyone.
Blues Bash is his latest studio offering, and another undoubted, sure-fire winner, with a total of 10 tracks flying through 42 minutes. Two instrumentals, three songs with Chris Cote on vocals and one with Michelle ‘Evil Gal’ Willson; leaving Duke to sing the other couple.
Backed by some stellar musicians, including some of the original Roomful of Blues brass section, this is a glorious vintage style, danceable blues party album.
Straight out of the Ike Turner catalogue, “Do You Mean It” gets the party started, genuine rockin’ and swingin’ R&B with Chris Cotes at the microphone and Duke replicating some of Ike’s stinging Fender licks.
Chris’s next singing has him covering a Roy Milton classic “What Can I Do” originally released on the Speciality Label in 1953, here not just featuring Dukes clean guitar but some terrific piano from Bruce Bears; and as you’d expect, very solid and tight horns.
The third and final vocal input from Cotes is a real lively rendition of T-Bone Walker’s 1953 R&B song “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing”, with the punchy triple saxes complementing Dukes marvellous, understated guitar.
Of the two instrumentals I particularly liked the cover of Lefty Bates’ “Rock Alley” with the sharp guitar picking and honking saxes, all guaranteed to get the rug rolled up and everyone out on the kitchen floor.
“Just Chillin’ concludes the entire set and is a Robillard original tune that verges into slow, smooth jazz, opening with swinging bass and drums, then some mellow tasty Sax and subtle Hammond, before the main man’s magic fingers stride along with his beautiful touch and tone.
Returning to the remaining vocal tracks, Dukes’ Smiley Lewis impersonation on the Dave Bartholomew song “I Ain’t Gonna Do It” is a real N’Awlins floor shaker with Mark ‘Mr. B.’ Braun” the main feature on a lively piano intro, plus the further addition of the middle solo.
Bob Walsh takes over the 88’s, with Duke covering the vocals on his own composition “No Time” plus Mark Hummel providing West-side of Chicago sounding harmonica.
The boss also does a very credible vocal on Al Kings’ slow blues from 1966 “Everybody Ain’t Your Friend” and then again, likewise on his own song “Give Me All The Love You Got”, which has a wonderful 24 second blistering Texas Blues type introduction to a jumping shuffle.
Ironically, my favourite track though has ‘Evil Gal’ Wilson performing a cracking job on the cover of Helen Humes 1952 hit “You Played On My Piano,” another bouncy, jump-jive with trademark horns and further exquisite jazz guitar from Duke.
Despite the world-wide pandemic and all it’s restrictions, there have still been some excellent new releases these last few months.
Take my word for it, this is right up there with the best of them, Duke Robillard might bashfully tell you “It’s nothing fancy, just good old blues,” well it’s certainly that, but also refreshingly neoteric, all at the same time.
Jack Kidd – “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com
Released on 20th. November 2020
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