The Duke Robillard Band
They Called It Rhythm & Blues
Stony Plain Records
Veteran blues guitarist / bandleader Duke
Robillard has certainly been one of the more prolific recording
artists in the business over the last 50 years, dating back to
his early days in Roomful of Blues and moving over the next
decades with various bands bearing his name. We've reviewed more
than a dozen Duke recordings since the start of Blues Bytes. In
other words, he is no stranger to even to the most casual blues
They Called It Rhythm & Blues (Stony
Plain) just might be the best collection of recordings that he's
put out over the years, this one billed to The Duke Robillard
Band. With 18 songs covering much of the history of rhythm &
blues and 10 guest stars, this is really more like having three
albums in one.
Familiar names make up the core band, with
vocalist Chris Cote featured on six of the cuts. Other band
members include Bruce Bears (piano, organ), Marty Ballou (bass),
Mark Teixeira (drums) and Doug James (sax). Cote steps up to the
mic for the jumping opener, "Here I'm Is," and is also featured
on the up-tempo Roy Milton R&B stomper "Fools Are Getting
Scarcer," the snaky "The Way You Do," an outstanding version of
the Joe Liggins blues classic "In The Wee Wee Hours," the slow
Freddy King blues "Someday After A While," and the Willie Egan
stop-time blues "I Can't Understand It."
Mr. Robillard sings on three numbers: the Mickey
& Sylvia tune "No Good Lover," on which he shares guitar solos
with Sue Foley, the always wonderful ZuZu Bollin up-tempo blues
shuffle "Eat Where You Slept Last Night," and the grinding blues
"Outta Here," featuring Anita Suhanin on background vocals and a
strong organ solo from Bears.
Now, on to our guest vocalists.
Kim Wilson sings and plays harmonica on his own
blues composition "Tell Me Why" that features Matt McCabe
pounding the 88s, and then his answer to Guitar Slim on the slow
swamp blues "The Things I Forgot To Do." As expected, Wilson
nails it on these two tunes.
Former Roomful singer and harmonica player Sugar
Ray Norcia brings his brand of down and dirty blues on Tampa
Red's "Rambler Blues" and the Jimmy Nelson mid-tempo jazzy blues
"She's My Baby." I love the line "... she purrs like a kitten,
when she slides on my lap ..." On this latter tune Norcia
uses his harmonica as another member of the horn section, nicely
complementing James" tenor sax, while Robillard chimes in with a
strong guitar solo.
Michelle Willson joins the band on vocals with
the rockin' R&B song "Champagne Mind," done originally by
obscure blues cat Effie Smith. She then slows it down for a
late-night jazzy version of "Trouble In Mind" that is one of the
highlights of an album full of highlights.
John Hammond is our final guest, and as expected
he takes it to more of a country blues setting with a plodding
version of Little Son Jackson's "Homeless Blues" and a more
downhome version of Howlin' Wolf's "No Place To Go."
Whew! That's a lot of music for one disc, and
each of the 18 songs is worthy of inclusion on this collection.
They Called It Rhythm & Blues is already in the running
for this year's best blues album, so, needless to say, you WILL
want to add it to your collection. If so, you will play it
frequently. I guarantee it.
--- Bill Mitchell