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Duke Robillard Explores Vast Blues Universe

His output has been staggering over the last 20 years, but those creative juices run so deep that Duke Robillard never runs out of things to say. On "World Full Of Blues", there’s even a bonus CD that ups the total playing time to nearly 2 hours---consisting of about half originals and half covers, for a total of 23 songs.

There’s a lot happening: Jazz, Jump Blues, Chicago Blues, Folk, Pop, Motown, but Duke’s sweet funky grooves tend to predominate. Still, as he elaborates in his insightful liner notes, everything he plays can be traced back to the Blues.

Anyone who’s followed Duke’s career knows his admiration for his influences expresses itself by playing their music from his heart, while always adding tasty new ideas that complement the whole.

It’s especially welcoming hearing Duke and harp maestro Sugar Ray Norcia playing off each other on 3 of the more intense tracks, especially "You’re Killing Me Baby"--- a slow blues that smolders like a flickering candle. Duke’s axe of choice on this scorcher was a ’58 Les Paul (note: Duke plays a different guitar on virtually every track). "Blues Nightmare" is an 8-minute instrumental tour-de-force with soul firepower in surplus. The Duke/Ray team also take care of business on "Slam Hammer"--a James Cotton rocking instrumental that Duke first heard on an Arhoolie album from the 60’s.

Duke gets to pay homage to a host of influences, some expected, a few unexpected: Memphis Slim (Steppin’ Out), T-Bone Walker ("Treat Me So Lowdown"), Booker T. ("Slim Jenkins Joint"), Jimmy Reed ("Bright Lights, Big City"), and Memphis Slim ("Steppin Out"). Duke knew Bo Diddley’s "Who Do You Love" was based on a gospel groove, so there’s a B-3 soaked ending tacked on the end that bedazzles. Another standout track is Duke’s masterful interpretation of Eric Bibb’s "Too Much Stuff".

Wardell Gray’s "Stoned" features guitar friend Paul Kolesnikow lending a helping a hand. Besides legends from the past, Duke is extremely conversant with legends from the present, thus there’s two scintillating covers of songs by Bob Dylan ("Everything Is Broken") and Tom Waits dirge-like "Low Side Of The Road.

Duke pays tribute to B.B. King on his self-penned "Gonna Told You That", while another of his guitar heroes, Billy Butler, is fetedon the upbeat "Bounce For Billy". Duke has written some of his finest songs ever, including "Six Inch Heels"---an elaboration upon "Fishnet" from his "New Blues For Modern Man". "Monkey Arms"--inspired by his wife-is the best original and methinks it'll be a crowd favorite too.

"World Full Of Blues" is a majestic accomplishment, so don’t let that bonus CD deceive you into believing otherwise. There’s not the slightest trace of filler. Both CD’s comes with this built-in warranty: "All Killer, No Filler".

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Duke Robillard
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