The first time I saw Michael John “Duke” Robillard, to the best of my fading recollection, was about 42 years ago, in the late 70s, at a club called the Decade in Pittsburgh. He was fronting the band he had founded about ten years before that — the jumping, swinging music of Roomful of Blues.
Since then, Duke has carried his guitar and his expert musical chops through scores of albums, and seemingly almost as many musical styles and genres — all rooted deeply in the blues.
All of which leads to Robillard’s (& Friends) latest album, “Blues Bash” (Stony Plain Records), a tasty throwback to some traditional blues styles. There’s tough guitar, some rollicking piano (the best kind), and enough horns to satisfy the horniest of musical desires. Some of the Friends include, from Roomful, saxmen Rich Lataille, Greg Piccolo and Doug James.
The opening tracks kick off with two fine blues, the exuberant “Do You Mean It” with Chris Cote shouting big vocals, and the scorching “No Time,” laced with tough harp lines.
“What Can I Do” rolls in on that rollicking piano from Bruce Bears, kicked along by some spiffy sax work, and the bash continues until things take a double entendre turn with Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson singing “You Played On My Piano (and now you wanna beat my drums…”) surrounded by sinuous guitar. “I Ain’t Gonna Do It” follows with furious boogie woogie.
There are more, of course, in the same swinging style, a vintage treat from a vintage Duke. And at the end, after you’ve jiggled yourself into a blues frenzy, pour a couple fingers of bourbon over a big ice cube and unwind into Duke’s gently swinging closer, “Just Chillin.”
All of this adds up to a fine ensemble effort, from a group of excellent musicians, all comfortable within themselves, and masterfully woven together by Robillard.
Or, as Duke describes “Blues Bash”: “Packed with plenty of bright sounding Fender guitar a la Ike Turner, Lefty Bates, etc. Just a good listening or dancing record like the blues records I bought when I was a kid. It was pretty much a reunion of sorts and I wanted the material to be simple, straight-ahead ‘50s style blues and R&B… Basically it’s a blues party album and that feeling is what I wanted to convey.”
Indeed it is. Enjoy the party.
Here’s a promotional video of the lead track, “Do You Mean It”
“Blues Bash” track list:
1. Do You Mean It (featuring Chris Cote)
2. No Time
3. What Can I Do (featuring Chris Cote)
4. Everybody Ain t Your Friend
5. Rock Alley
6. You Played On My Piano (featuring Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson)
7. I Ain t Gonna Do It
8. You Don t Know What You re Doin (featuring Chris Cote)
9. Give Me All The Love You Got
10. Just Chillin