Throughout a career that has spanned four decades, guitarist Duke Robillard has brought his immense talents to bear on a vast range of blues, jazz, and R&B music. Beginning with his influential band Roomful of Blues, through his brief tenure with Texas blues barn-burners the Fabulous Thunderbirds, to a lengthy solo career that has earned the skilled instrumentalist a wealth of awards and accolades, Duke Robillard has never been content with resting on past laurels as he challenges himself with a variety of stylistic exercises.
Robillard's Stomp! The Blues Tonight follows the acclaimed 2008 release A Swingin Session With, a collection of golden-era jazz brought up to speed with a contemporary edge. With Stomp! The Blues Tonight, Robillard has attempted to recreate the authentic sound and energy of 1940s and '50s-era rhythm and blues, the kind of swingin' soul-blues music practiced by singers and guitarists like Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Roy Milton, Lowell Fulson, Pee Wee Crayton and others. To help achieve his goals, Robillard some of his former Roomful of Blues mates: saxophonists Doug James and Rich Lataille and cornet player Al Basile.
Duke Robillard's Stomp! The Blues Tonight
Credited to Duke Robillard's Jumpin' Blues Revue, Stomp! The Blues Tonight is a lively, high-energy collection of rhythm-infused blues and R&B, not dissimilar to what Robillard used to perform with Roomful of Blues back in the day. The disc opens with the guitarist's original title track, a performance so stylistically spot-on that none but the expert (or the hardcore fan) could carbon-date the sucker any decade later than the 1950s. With a raucous, ramped-up opening and swinging horns, Robillard's hepcat vocals and fine guitar tone are matched by the horn section's timely blasts of cold air.
A cover of blues legend Lowell Fulson's "Do Me Right" is elegant and well-dressed courtesy of the deep groove provided by Robillard's jazzy fretwork, which itself is accompanied by Doug James' honkin' sax and Bruce Bears' filigree pianowork. Although Robillard's vocals aren't quite the equal of Fulson's (few are, really), he acquits himself well by not trying to over-emote, instead delivering a subdued, but soulful vocal turn.
West Coast Jump Blues
West Coast R&B giant Roy Milton's wonderful, rocking "Baby, You Don't Know" benefits from the full-band effort of Robillard's Jumpin' Blues Revue, the song's strong underlying rhythm provided by its swaying hornplay as Bears' nimble-fingered piano lies just beneath the vocals in the mix. Robillard's guitar is understated, but no less potent, as it threads itself beneath the ever present horns.
The traditional "Frankie and Johnny" is gussied up by Robillard, framed as an instrumental showcase for his six-string talents. With the horns playing gently behind him, and drummer Mark Teixeira providing a lively up-tempo beat, Robillard embroiders the song with his vibrant guitarwork. By the time that saxman James jumps into the fray, Robillard is moving full-throttle, and the song ends with a cooling piano note and dropped drumbeat.
Introducing Sunny Crownover
Robillard's protégé, Ms. Sunny Crownover, is given center stage for "I Wanna Hug You, Kiss You, Squeeze You." Half purring kitten, half wildcat growl, Crownover's sultry vocals bring an entirely different dimension to Robillard's material, providing a fine counterpoint to the guitarist's blue-eyed soul. As the band rages behind her, you can just imagine Crownover tossing her hips and making the boys swoon like a film clip from the 1940s as she belts out the song.
Crownover displays her full range with the raucous original "Look But Don't Touch." With a steady strolling beat behind her, Ms Sunny knocks out the song with joy, lyrically showing a prospective suitor the door as Robillard's nimble fretwork jumps-n-jives across the ribald rhythms. "Jumpin' The Bone," an original Robillard/James instrumental that plays like a 1940s jazzbo throwback, jukes and jumps across the grooves with frenetic guitar licks and rollicking hornplay.
The Reverend's Bottom Line
The best thing about a hearing a brand new Duke Robillard album for the first time is that while you're never quite sure where he's driving, you know that you're always going to enjoy the ride. Such is the case with Stomp! The Blues Tonight, a retro-delight that features a perfect balance between Robillard's skilled six-string chops and the invigorating, Doug James-led horn section.
Throw in Sunny Crownover's feminine wiles as a counterpoint to Robillard's gruffer vocals on an inspired mix of covers and original songs that were carefully-crafted to evoke an earlier era of the blues, and Stomp! The Blues Tonight is a complete rock-n-rolla success story certain to please your ears even as it sets your toes-a-tappin'! (Stony Plain Records, released June 2, 2009)
'Stomp! The Blues Tonight' Track Listing
1. Stomp The Blues Tonight
2. Do Me Right
3. Three Hours Past Midnight
4. Baby You Don't Know
5. I Wanna Hug You, Kiss You, Squeeze You
6. Frankie And Johnny
7. Look But Don't Touch
8. Playful Baby
9. Million Dollar Secret
10. Jumpin' The Bone
11. Hands Off!
12. Money's Gettin' Cheaper
13. For You My Love
14. Tore Up
15. Ain't Nobody's Business
16. Early In The Morning