Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Acoustic Blues & Roots Of Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard has been fairly prolific on recordings recently and Stony Plain has issued his latest, "The Acoustic Blues & Roots Of." One might be tempted to call this "Duke Unplugged," but the 18 selections cover a wide range of genres, not simply types of blues. Along with some of his regular partners in music, bassist Marty Ballou, pianist Matt McCabe and drummer Mark Teixeira there are guest appearances including vocalists Sunny Crownover and Maria Muldaur, guitarist and vocalist Mary Flower, pianist Jay McShann, harmonica wizard Jerry Portnoy and clarinetist Billy Novick. Along with Robillard originals there are songs from Stephen Foster, Jimmie Rodgers, Big Bill Broonzy, the Delmore Brothers, Tampa Red, John Estes, Hank Williams, Robert Lockwood Jr., and others.

Overdubbing allows him to showcase his mandolin on the brief "Old Kentucky Home," followed by his capturing a pre-war Chicago blues groove on Broonzy's "Big Bill Blues." "Left Handed," with Portnoy contributing the Sonny Boy Williamson I harp comes across as another Big Bill styled performance. Portnoy is also on the cover of Sleepy John Estes' "Someday Baby." There is a pretty straight rendition of "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," while Novick's clarinet and Robillard's mandolin are heard on a nice"St. Louis Blues."

There are affable renditions of country tunes including Jimmie Rogers "Jimmie's Texas Blues," with a credible yodel"; a lovely duet with Mary Flower on the Delmore Brothers' "Nashville Blues"; and a cover of Hank Williams' waltz, "Let's Turn Back The Years." Sunny Crownover sings "Evangeline," covering a song associated with Emmylou Harris and The Band. With Novick on clarinet, Robillard sings some Tampa Red hokum on "What Is It That Tastes Like Gravy?" Most performances are short (Under 4 minutes), with the longest being a take on Robert Lockwood's "Take A Little Walk With Me," that has outstanding piano from McCabe. A treat is a duet with Jay McShann on the moody Meade Lux lewis composed instrumental "Profoundly Blue."

Robillard acquits himself as a vocalist and the playing is wonderful throughout resulting in an enjoyable change of pace from Duke's other recordings.

I received my review copy from Mark Pucci. Here is Duke Robillard jumping the blues.

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