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Issue 1088

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Review

Duke Robillard and his all-star combo: Blues Full Circle (Dixiefrog)

Duke Robillard CD cover pic

8

6.1

Rate this Album

UK release date 30.09.2016

The US blues guitar great is back with a really nice album. I’ll let Duke set the scene himself:

“This album really does represent a full circle of blues for me. Eight of the tunes are new compositions and three tunes here represent songs I wrote as much as 30 to 45 years ago when I was leader and front man for the original Roomful of Blues in the 1970s. We hope you enjoy our back to the basics approach to the music here. Just straightforward small band, old school blues.”

Well I did enjoy it. A lot. His all-star combo - Duke Robillard (guitars, vocals); Bruce Bears (Piano, Hammond organ); Brad Hallen (electric & acoustic bass); Mark Teixeira (drums) - is joined by a tasty array of special guests: Jimmie Vaughan on guitar on “Shufflin’ and Scufflin,”, Sugar Ray Norcia sings on “Last Night,” Kelley Hunt p[lays piano and sings on “The Mood Room,” , ‘Sax Gordon’ Beadle on tenor & baritone sax & Doug James on baritone sax.

Robillard formed Roomful of Blues in 1967, going solo in 1984, as Duke Robillard & the Pleasure Kings. In 1990 he replaced his pal Jimmie Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds for three years. For the past decade he’s co-founded the six-string trio New Guitar Summit, plus the jump-blues based Sunny and Her Joy Boys with vocalist Sunny Crownover.

Duke has produced and played on albums by a who’s who of greats that embraces Ruth Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Rosco Gordon, Billy Boy Arnold, Jay McShann, Eddie Clearwater and others, and he’s toured and recorded with Tom Waits and Bob Dylan.

The six time ‘Blues Award’ winner always comes back to his old love though; the blues and across these 13 cuts, he and the band didn’t need propping up with VIP guests, but it sure adds value. It is an even listen as regards strength of material and performances. Duke had a hand in writing 11 of the 13 songs, Jimmy Lewis and Kelley Hunt penned the other two.

No duffers, it’s all pretty lovely, a spirited and welcome return to a much respected and valued member of the blues world. He could not play guitar for a year after surgery and he had months and months of physical therapy to get back to full strength again.

B.B. King says "Duke’s one of the great players," and the New York Times says Robillard is "a soloist of stunning force and originality." On hearing “Blues Full Circle,” I defy anyone to contradict either statement.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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