Sunday, June 28, 2009

Duke Robillard’s Jumpin’ Blues Revue - Stomp! The Blues Tonight reviewed by David Stine

Duke Robillard’s Jumpin’ Blues Revue - Stomp! The Blues Tonight
Duke Robillard
Stony Plain Records
16 tracks

Hot on the heels of Sunny and Her Joy Boys (which IS a Duke album), comes “Stomp! The Blues Tonight”. Nobody can make an old song sound old like Duke Robillard. Yet, you’ve got to admire his unwavering devotion to all things T-bone Walker. Some folks might be a bit weary of the whole West coast jumpin’ blues phenomenon. I am. However, if you loved the first Roomful of Blues CD, and haven’t gotten enough of a jumping guitar and horn-driven band, then maybe this CD IS for you. Don’t get me wrong, I am a Duke fan, not militantly so like my East coast buddies, but I appreciate his tone and impeccable guitar phrasing. I am not, however, a fan of his stark, bitten off vocals. The addition of Sunny Crownover here (6 cuts) only adds more for me to complain about. Two so so vocalists can’t make one good one. On the duet “I Wanna Hug You, Kiss You, Squeeze You,” I cringed. Before I get shot, let me state that this is a crack band, instrumentally. Back to help are stalwarts Marty Ballou, Doug James, Al Basile along with Bruce Bears, Carl Querfurth, Jon Ross, Rich Lataile, and Mark Teixeira. They sound every bit as good as Roomful and have a mighty feel for the jump blues of the 40s. The album is also nice and lengthy (Duke is never chintzy in that regard)--66 min. and 16 cuts. Besides the Duke-penned title cut, “Look But Don’t Touch” (sung by Sunny), and “Jumpin The Bone” (Duke and Doug James) are classic by Roy Milton, Helen Humes, Lowell Fulson, Ike Turner, and Wynonie Harris. There is no questioning Duke’s love of this era of music. But do we need yet another cover of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,“ “Frankie and Johnny (done as a great instrumental, by the way), or “Tore Up”? While staying true to the feel and sound of the 40s is admirable, I question the need for other than die-hard Duke fans. The whole CD had my toe tappin’, but the only rendering that jumped out at me was Jay McShann‘s “Hands Off!” “Jump The Bone” comes in at a close second. Maybe Duke needs to trust Duke more and realize that many of the great songs and songwriters he admires were pretty good and smooth vocalists as well. If he is not going to hire a singer that can do these songs justice, vocally, the he need to write more of his own songs to take their place. Again, Duke fans will welcome his return to his jump blues roots (see review of Sunny and Her Joy Boys), but if you are new to Duke or this genre’ there are MANY other CDs you may want to explore first. Duke has great instincts: T-Bone, Roy Milton, Lowell Fulson, and Ike Turner did some great stuff. They also had great bands, as does Duke, but they also had a sort of ragged authority that I find lacking in this CD. Duke is starting to look more and more like a high school math teacher. I hope CDs like this are not just an intellectual exercise.

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