Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Passport To The Blues reviewed by Rick Davis

Passport To The Blues
Duke Robillard
Stony Plain Records
13 Tracks

Duke Robillard has covered a wide span during his musical career. After playing with several bands, Robillard and pianist Al Copley founded Roomful of Blues in 1967. The band became well known and began to appear with blues legends Big Joe Turner and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson in the recording studio and in live concerts. Robillard continued with Roomful of Blues for 12 years before leaving them to play briefly with rockabilly artist Robert Gordon and created two albums with the Legendary Blues Band, consisting of former members of the Muddy Waters band. From 1990-1992 Duke Robillard and Kid Bangham replaced Jimmy Vaughan with The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Over the years has also performed with Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Jay McShann, John Hammond, the late Jimmy Witherspoon, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, the Canadian band The Rockin’ Highliners, Snooky Prior, Hal Singer, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Boy Arnold, Herb Ellis, Ruth Brown, the late Johnny Adams, and Ronnie Earl.

Duke Robillard's accomplishments include The Blues Music Awards (formerly W.C. Handy Awards) as the "Best Blues Guitarist" four years out of five (2000,2001,2003,2004), making him the second most honored guitarist for that award.  He was also nominated in that category in 2005, 2007 and 2008. In 2007 Duke received a Grammy nomination for his "Guitar Groove-a-rama" CD. He has the distinct titles of guitarist, bandleader, songwriter, singer, producer, and session musician. He has appeared on 50 albums with Passport To The Blues being his latest.

With all the accolades in place, Robillard seems to be at the peak of his career. Passport To The Blues opens with "Workin' Hard For My Uncle" a blues blast that would raise the roof off any juke joint. Duke's gritty vocals and superb guitar riffs combine with Doug James on sax, Bruce Bears on the keyboard, Brad Hallen on bass, and Mark Teixeira on drums to deliver more extraordinary blues tunes like "Hong Kong Suit." "Blues Train" leans toward the funky side followed by "Girl Let Me Tell Ya" with Doug James absolutely wailing on sax and Robillard delivering that knock out punch on guitar.

"Rhode Island Red Rooster" is a masterfully arranged, slow, shotgun style blues number featuring Doug James this time on harp and Bruce Bears pounding out the keys. Duke advises his latest romance that she is about as welcome as a "Fatal Heart Attack" in the next tune. His blues guitar work and gritty vocals is a perfect fit for the Tom Waits number "Make It Rain." He follows with a jazzy lounge style blues number "When You're Old You're Cold." "Text Me" is the follow up blues flavored tune for the younger generation with a little Jimmy Vaughan style guitar work. It's closing time at the lounge with Duke fighting off a case of the lonely blues with his guitar and a bottle of wine delivering "Duke's Evening Blues." Duke rounds out a superb CD with the Doc Pomus/ Duke Robillard tune "The High Cost Of Lovin'" and in my estimation some of the best blues guitar Robillard has ever delivered with "Grey Sky Blues." As an added bonus, he tops that with a hard drivin' instrumental "Bradford Boogie." Order this one and file it under Duke Robillard's greatest hits. It truly is one of his best!

Reviewed by Rick Davis

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