This time out Duke brought his nasty guitar, his usual crackerjack band with a few friends, and a rich, fat-bottom sound to his new Stony Plain release, Calling All Blues! The result is a consistently excellent batch of tracks that continue to reveal, with repeated spins, a treasure trove of simple yet seductive pleasures. Aided by a three piece horn section and the sultry voice of Sunny Crownover, the album covers a diverse cross-section of blues-based styles, jazzy one moment, bluesy the next, yet playful throughout. At the center of it all is the Duke, master of ceremonies, guitar in hand, lyrical tongue firmly in cheek.
The record kicks off with “Down in Mexico,” a loving tribute to Duke’s favorite vacation destination. Sunny Crownover contributes supporting vocals and the horn section punctuates Duke’s guitar lines with a solid hefty punch. Crownover really shines on “Blues Beyond the Call of Duty,” showing off her ability to bring the emotion to the fore and place her notes right in the spaces Duke and the boys provide for her. The band is in excellent form throughout, and Brad Hallen’s doghouse bass nails the rhythm section right to the dance floor.
Keyboard player Bruce Bears provides the jazzy lead vocal on “Confusion Blues,” another example of the many talents of the Duke Robillard Band. “Svengali,” one of several highlights on the album, pits Robillard’s gravel-voiced delivery against a slithery guitar and a lyric that displays a subtle sense of humor.
“Nasty Guitar” lives up to its title, providing enough greasy licks to please just about everyone. The best track on the album is “Motor Trouble,” a complaint about that old beater of a car we have all driven at one time or another. The song is a slow boogie, like ZZ Top filtered through a morphine drip, rumbling, cranky, loose and yet not, like an old Detroit classic on the verge of breakdown. Turn it up and hit repeat, this one is just plain fun.
This fall is seeing some fine roots releases and Calling All Blues! is well worth your money…