Duke Robillard – They Called It Rhythm & Blues (2022) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Duke Robillard – They Called It Rhythm & Blues (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:07:26 minutes | 796 MB | Genre: Blues Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Stony Plain Records

Anyone who knows Duke’s music, will immediately smile at the first few seconds of the opening track “Here I’m Is” from the new album They Call It Rhythm & Blues, available on 180g Black vinyl from Stony Plain Records. It’s that joyous jump-blues shuffle sound that Duke has been perfecting since the late 60s. Indeed, every song on this album is about the groove, master musicianship, great understated taste and a perfect band mix that always complements the pulse and the singer. Duke’s guitar is at the center and brings it all together.

For a lifetime Duke Robillard has been playing the jazzy corners of the blues. He was a founder of Roomful of Blues in the early 1970s, and replaced Jimmy Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds in the 1990s and was a core member of the New Guitar Summit through the 2000s, in addition to releasing an astounding 37 albums on his own.

In an interview promoting 2020’s fine Blues Bash, guitarist Duke Robillard stated, “I want to make a straight vintage-style blues album … danceable blues … like the blues records I bought as a kid.” This notion may have guided him in recording They Called It Rhythm and Blues, too. The majority of these 18 songs are beautifully crafted covers of vintage R&B, blues, and jazz tunes. Robillard’s band — vocalist Chris Cote, pianist/organist Bruce Bears, bassist Marty Ballou, drummer Mark Teixeira, and saxophonist Doug James — are drenched in swinging earthiness playing these R&B, jump, and rowdy blues jams. Robillard appended them with fine guest singers and instrumentalists; everybody approaches the material with sophistication and spontaneity. Cote sings six songs, including the opener, Chuck Higgins’ gritty, fingerpopping, “Here I’m Is,” atop Robillard’s stinging fills and James’ moaning tenor framing a piano and snare shuffle. He also delivers a riveting vocal on Joe “The Honeydripper” Liggins’ piano-pumping, horn-drenched party anthem “In the Wee Wee Hours” and Freddie King’s Big Joe Turner instrument “Someday After Awhile.” Mickey & Sylvia’s “No Good Lover” features a vocal-and-guitar duet between singer/axe slinger Sue Foley, as well as a choogling organ break by Texas bluesman Mike “The Drifter” Flanigin. Kim Wilson joins his former Fabulous Thunderbirds bandmate on vocals and wailing harmonica in a raw, spirited, spiky revisit of “Tell Me Why,” with pumping piano by Matt McCabe. Further, Wilson reprises his NOLA-inspired R&B stroller “The Things I Forgot to Do.” Speaking of harmonica, Chicago’s Sugar Ray Norcia lends his voice and snaky harp to a roiling tribute to Big Walter Horton on Tampa Red’s “Rambler’s Blues,” and puts the party into overdrive with a version of a Louis Jordan-inspired read of Jimmy Nelson’s “She’s My Baby.” The W.C. Handy Award-winning Michelle Willson lends her resonant voice to Effie Smith’s jump groover “Champagne Mind” and Richard M. Jones’ immortal “Trouble in Mind.” Robillard’s gently swinging solo on the latter underscores her smoky performance, framing it with a muted trumpet — sounding like the ghost of Bix Biederbecke — and throaty baritone sax. John Hammond offers a scorching vocal on Melvin “Lil’ Son” Jackson’s Bessie Smith vehicle “Homeless Blues, and Howlin’ Wolf’s lonely, sinister “No Place to Go.” Robillard and Anita Suhanin duet on the guitarist’s “Outta Here” amid greasy guitars, Stax-styled horns, and Bears’ bumping B-3 grooves. Robillard sings on what may be the first recorded cover of Texas bluesman Zuzu Bollin’s R&B groover “Why Don’t You Eat Where You Slept Last Night?” His instrumental set-closer “Swingin’ for Four Bills” is a soulful exercise in bluesy soul-jazz with Flanigin’s B-3 and Foley’s guitar. It’s Robillard’s tribute to organists Bill Doggett and Wild Bill Davis, and guitarists Bill Jennings and Billy Butler. They Called It Rhythm and Blues showcases Robillard at a peak: We already appreciate him as a guitar giant and blues, jazz, and R&B scholar, but here he reveals himself as a generous accompanist, accommodating bandleader, and sympathetic producer to boot. – Thom Jurek

1-1. Duke Robillard – Here I’m Is (02:27)
1-2. Duke Robillard – No Good Lover (03:38)
1-3. Duke Robillard – Fools Are Getting Scarcer (03:09)
1-4. Duke Robillard – Tell Me Why (02:43)
1-5. Duke Robillard – Rambler Blues (03:38)
1-6. Duke Robillard – The Way You Do (02:51)
1-7. Duke Robillard – Champagne Mind (03:15)
1-8. Duke Robillard – Homeless Blues (05:00)
1-9. Duke Robillard – Outta Here (04:00)
1-10. Duke Robillard – In The Wee Wee Hours (02:55)
1-11. Duke Robillard – Someday After Awhile (05:08)
1-12. Duke Robillard – She’s My Baby (03:30)
1-13. Duke Robillard – Trouble In Mind (04:16)
1-14. Duke Robillard – No Place To Go (03:54)
1-15. Duke Robillard – The Things I Forgot To Do (03:58)
1-16. Duke Robillard – I Can’t Understand It (02:39)
1-17. Duke Robillard – Eat Where You Slept Last Night (03:57)
1-18. Duke Robillard – Swingin’ For Four Bills (06:20)