In 1967 when Blues influenced guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, then a member of Cream, were pushing the music’s outer boundaries adding psychedelic sounds and imagery that would greatly influence future generations of Blues Rockers, young Duke Robillard embraced the past with open arms, helping create the Jump & Swing influenced Roomful of Blues.
After leaving Roomful in 1979, he continued on an eclectic path that has seen him back the likes of
Rockabilly singer Robert Gordon at that time and eccentric singer/songwriter Tom Waits in the past
year. On the Blues side of the ledger, Robillard spent time with an early incarnation of the Legendary
Blues Band which was originally populated with members of Muddy Waters’ highly esteemed 70’s era band. Duke
also took Jimmy Vaughan’s spot in the Fabulous Thunderbirds, recording and touring with that band in
the early 90’s while still maintaining a solo career. For all his jumping around the musical map, Robillard’s touchstone remains his fluid guitar technique. Influences such as T-Bone Walker and B.B. King immediately come to mind, but Duke’s ringing tone and head bobbing runs have taken on a feel that is distinctly personal.
Duke Robillard’s World Full Of Blues is just that.
This ambitious two disc set covers a wide range of
influences and, for the most part, is extremely
successful at achieving and maintaining a workable
balance between such seemingly polar sources. The
master guitarist covers the likes of Waits – “Low Side
Of The road,” Bob Dylan, with a masterful, Delta
influenced take on “Everything is Broken,” Bo Diddleyy
- “Who Do You Love” and Booker T. & The MGs - “Slim
Jenkins’ Joint.” Robillard contributes 12 originals
out of the entire set’s 23 tracks. I’m most smitten
with the opener, “Jump The Blues For You,” which does
just that in the time tested Roomful Of Blues vein,
and the gritty back alley vibe of “You’re Killin’ Me Baby.” The collection of backing musicians knows what the leader needs and gives it to him with strength and integrity. The core players create the varied grooves that run this immense engine. Mark Teixeira(drums), John Packer(bass), Bruce Bears(keyboards) and longtime partner in crime Doug James(sax, bass clarinet and harmonica) all add whatever is needed and help give a potentially disjointed project cohesion.
Of the two discs, the first seems to have the better sense of flow as it artfully bobs and weaves, veering from cosmopolitan to guttural. There’s a sense of balance that makes it work well as a whole. The second disc seems to be a little bit more of what the dust jacket describes as a bonus disc. It contains many shining moments, but lacks the thematic cohesiveness of its companion. Do not for a moment, however, think that it is any less worthy. The intrepid folks at Stoney Plain Records have allotted Robillard an enormous amount of time to make his statement, releasing nearly two hours of music and I applaud them for doing so. In spite of its length, this collection pretty much stands up to the adage, all killer no filler.
Stony Plain Records