Duskin’s style is utterly without pretense. His voice is a throwback to the blues ‘shouters’ of the past. His voice is warm and full with just enough rasp to sound dirty at the same time. He sings with such ease and is so familiar and connected with the tunes, that the feeling of the material rubs off on the listener. They make you want to sit down and have a beer with him and the band.
Duskin’s piano style is also very spare and deliberate. He’s no Otis Spann or James P. Johnson, and he needn’t be. His simple phrases and lines are as inviting as his vocals. And when he lays down a boogie woogie bass line with his left hand, it can really jump. One of my favorite tracks is "North to Alaska" which employs his boogie left hand phrasing underneath more country style chords and melody. It’s a very intriguing piece. He also ventures into some gospel territory for the traditional closing track, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and adds an almost jazzy, chromatic bass line to the 2nd version of "You’re Gonna Miss Me".
In most cases, an artist’s personal history is best not confused with his art, but in Duskin’s case it’s important to consider. Much of his life was spent away from the music he loved out of respect for his father, who was a Preacher and forbade his son the devil’s music. After his father died (at 105!!!) he was able to resume his musical career. In a spoken word track titled "The Preacher and the Devil’s Music", Duskin reminisces about a time when his father caught him playing the devil’s music at the piano in their home and received a beating. As in blues music, he somehow colors this difficult time with a positive outlook. Real blues musicians and lovers know that although the subjects may be hard, the blues is meant to help ever, hurt never; make you feel good, despite it all. Big Joe Duskin is a big helping hand.