Saturday, November 12, 2011


Now, you could describe in great detail all the sources for these classic blues numbers Robillard has chosen to cover, from the pens of the famous (Hooker), the brilliant (Bartholomew) and the obscure (Sugar Boy Crawford),  You could go through the process he employs to recreate the sound and the vibe of these raw, rich original singles from that purple patch of electric blues in the 40's, 50's and 60's, the live-from-the-floor, straight to 2-inch tape.  You could discuss these musicians in the band who know how to do vintage.  Or you could get all guitar-crazed, and go through the makes and models and years and tube amps that Duke finds to get just that tone from the original.  These would be important discussions for those folks who revere and understand, like Robillard himself.

But here's the deal; you don't need to concern yourself with it.  What is important is that this is better played and performed, better written and chosen, and simply more inspired and enjoyable than 95 per cent (or more) of anything else coming out today.  It's a bunch of veterans, playing guitar-bass-drums-keys-sax, with ultimate feel and love for sizzling blues sounds.  And, bonus!  They know how to make them!  I don't care HOW they make them, I know I can't, and neither can all those other bands that say they can.  Most of them are trying to play those licks, and pulling it off half the time.  Robillard, for instance, does them at ease, but then ads even a little more magic, something elongated, or slightly rearranged, just to show there's still more fun and experience to add to the blues, that it is, under his and other hands, still living.

Do Unto Others may be the best number here, the Dave Bartholomew number known from the Pee Wee Crayton version in 1954.  Robillard's solos rip, and each one ends with a subtle slide up the string to a little *ping* ending, just as cool and tasteful as can be.  But wait now, Sax Gordon's wail on the next track, Jimmy McCracklin's It's Alright, is remarkably dirty and fluid at the same time, and Duke's teasing us with tales of his baby, a song I know I've never heard before.  Meanwhile, downtown tonight in your hometown, the usual suspects are once again, covering the same Robert Johnson tracks Eric Clapton turned into cliches in 1967.

I don't want to be too mean here to any other blues players.  Rather, I'd like prefer to challenge your listening habits, mostly because I think Duke Robillard and his band are so very, very excellent.

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