When writing reviews pertinent to various blues bands, I often wonder how one band can surpass the preceding band. However, The Duke Robillard Band is an exemplary that accomplishes the task. Releasing his newest album, Calling All Blues, Duke Robillard has put together an album that is eclectic comprising many genres of the blues.
In the past, Duke has produced music such as big band, swing, and the blues. Calling All Blues not only meets but exceeds expectations providing listeners with the lot from up-tempo jump blues to jazz to the Memphis Blues. Calling All Blues is a treasury of the blues.
For a musician who has worked with artists Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, Duke has had an impressive music career. Adding to his resume, Duke was a member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and has shared the stage with Marie Muldaur. This incredible blues veteran also founded the Roomful of Blues in 1967. Calling All Blues demonstrates Duke’s love for the blues while parading his bebop abilities that matches the best.
The first track, “Down in Mexico,” lyrically reminds me of the tune “Kokomo” but has a “Mustang Sally” sway to it. This tune will make many “vacation ready,” just add sand and surf to finish the number. I love the trumpet and sax by Doug Woolverton, Rich Lataille, and Mark Earley. It’s great hearing the combination providing at times a Motown touch throughout the album. Owning a Getzen/Severinsen, I am partial to horns.
In the second track, I’m Gonna Quit My Baby,” Duke provides listeners with “eight beats to the bar rhythm”. His voice is flawless in this “Piney Woods” dance tune. Despite a hand injury, Duke’s slide guitar is superb. “I’m Gonna Quit My Baby” is a number I love, having such a passion for the I-IV-V-I stuff, even when modified.
With note to the next track, “Svengali” is Duke’s favorite. The number is based on George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby that pertains to a manipulative hypnotist infatuated by an attractive artists’ model in a Bohemian Paris setting. As I listen to Duke, I perceive a dispassionate voice as he sings “Won’t even raise an eyebrow when they put you six feet in the grave.” This might be a story worth reading.
Then Sunny Crownover steps up to the mike with “Blues beyond the Call of Duty.” This is a lady that can sing as she belts out, “Just like a missile seeking heat, you’ll end up in that cold cold ground.” Sunny is amazing as she connects with Duke’s guitar as his Fender “Strat” talks, another favorite of mine. I have to mention “Confusion Blues,” a close jazz/jump blues piece featuring Bruce Bears as the band resonates a tight tone. In addition, “Temptation” is a jazz flavor with an excellent muted trumpet bit from Doug Woolverton. Duke’s guitar riffs are staggering.
Duke and the band have put together an album that is astounding. As I listen to the album, Duke gives the impression he has no problem sharing the stage with others. With his attentiveness to the album’s composition, Duke is sometimes in the background while singers such as Sonny Crownover and Bruce Bears are featured. Moreover, the band displays a creative tone allowing innovation. Many artists will not permit that fearing they will be trumped. But when the bandleader allows freedom of expression, it’s a sign of an artist who appears secure in himself as the musicians make him resplendent in the sight of others. Duke Robillard composed this album with poise, grace, and many genres of the blues. He is a musician who knows what is needed in making a wicked blues album.
This is The Duke Robillard Band and Duke is Calling All Blues.