Stony Plain 2020
Renowned American guitarist leads his coterie to the jamboree and engages the world in their mood.
On the one hand, this record’s title can sound rather contradictory – if blues, by its very definition, should be woeful, lending itself to a bash may push the genre’s expressive limit; on the other hand, the listener must be a moron to give a damn about such oxymoronic matters if the music is so damn good. Well, Duke Robillard took care of that, approaching his umpteenth record with as much spontaneity as onset-of-pandemic required, which also informed the results with a juke-joint-like party air. Here’s why there’s but a sole fresh cut in sight, while there’s freshness to all the covers on offer, and a new take on the veteran’s old number.
This unhurried, harmonica-enhanced track, “No Time” – the first of four featuring Robillard’s own gravelly voice – could finely summarize the entire fun-filled album, if he didn’t preface it with an incendiary reading of Ike Turner’s “Do You Mean It” – where Chris Cote’s triumphant vocals are at the fore – and didn’t set the 10-minute instrumental jam “Just Chillin'” as the longplay’s fantastically transparent finale. Aided and abetted by Bruce Bears’ ivories on the brass-smeared boogie of Roy Milton’s “What Can I Do” – a top-notch toe-tapper – Duke’s stings twang reign over the den, but his honeyed return to Al King’s “Everybody Ain’t Your Friend” is able to melt the hardest of hearts, as is the wordless “Rock Alley” that pairs guitar filigree and sax licks.
After Michelle Willson’s husky pipes lead “You Played On My Piano” towards jazzy catharsis, the ol’ joanna itself peppers up Robillard’s rapturous ride through Fats Domino’s “Ain’t Gonna Do It” – courtesy of Mark Braun – before the shuffle of Ace Adams’ “You Don’t Know What You’re Doin'” is revived for Duke’s six strings to rave and rage in funky fashion, and his chestnut “Give Me All The Love You Got” is revitalized to reveal the thrill which ain’t gonna be gone any day soon. More than five decades since this artist debuted on the scene, Duke Robillard’s still a force to be reckoned with.