The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard
(2015; Stony Plain)
Duke Robillard is well known for his superlative guitar tone and dexterous playing. The Acoustic Roots of Duke Robillard shows yet another side to this stellar artist. The cover art shows Duke sitting on the porch in the sun, strumming his guitar, and it is easy to imagine sitting on the grass in front of him listening as he plays a few lines from “My Old Kentucky Home” or sings “I Miss My Baby in My Arms” with Bill Novick playing clarinet and Matt McCabe on piano. Guest vocalist Sunny Crownover sings on “Evangeline” and Mary Flower adds lap slide guitar while Jon Ross plucks and strums a mandolin. Jerry Portnoy uses his harp savvy to fill out Eric “Two Scoops” Moore’s “Left Handed” and Duke’s “I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog (To Take the Place of You)," which was recorded live at the Blackstone River Theater. Mary and Duke perform a duet on “Nashville Blues,” with both singing and playing guitar. The Providence Mandolin Orchestra and Novick’s clarinet gives “Saint Louis Blues” an old-timey feel and adds to the dramatic rhythm. Doug James shows potent harp skills on Sleepy John Estes “Someday Baby” with Duke on mandolin. Robert Lockwood’s “Take a Little Walk With Me” was also recorded live at Blackstone River. Maria Muldaur takes the vocals on “Santa Claus Blues” with Doug James on bari sax and Dave Babcock on tenor. Jay McShann plays a stately piano on Meade Lux Lewis’ “Profoundly Blue” which features crisp guitar lines by Robillard. The Acoustic Roots of Duke Robillard closes with 46 seconds of Duke playing solo on the jaunty “Ukulele Swing.” This album is just so much fun!
Reviewed by Malcolm Kennedy