Next week marks the latest and – much anticipated by me – release from one of my all-time favourite blues ambassadors:Duke Robillard with the appropriately titled STOMP! The Blues Tonight. from Stony Plain Records. A well seasoned cat in every way after forty years in the music industry and a superb guitarist – he replaced Jimmie Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds back in the nineties and yes, that would be Stevie Ray’s brother – Duke also knows exactly who to seek out on his records to accompany him and he’s hand chosen some excellent partners to set the nostalgic, swanky, upbeat tone achieved here. Back again are firm favourites Doug James with baritone and tenor sax and Rich Lataille providing both alto and tenor, sumptuous and rich as chocolate torte or those tantalizingly slow shuffling runs as they follow Duke’s lead. The main difference here from previous Robillard efforts is the huge shot of horns that have been added to the band in order to achieve the vintage sounds of the forties and fifties – making this record a nod to the true R&B precursor to rock and roll. But as well as Duke’s chums, there are also some new delights here, notably the immensely talented vocalist Sunny Crownover whose intuitive blues take on some of these songs is nothing short of dazzling. She accompanies Duke’s easy going, slightly raunchy delivery so seamlessly, that it’s clear she really understands what the band and the songs are trying to achieve here – her voice and interpretation are eerily perfect for the time period. Sunny also has a separate gig and album with Duke and some of the lads called Sunny and Her Joy Boys. Watch this space! I think her voice is perfect for this vehicle and I couldn’t be more impressed.
There is a vast variety of songs covered on this album and as always, a LOT of tracks – 16 in total making this well worth the price of admission. And not a dud amongst them.
Key tracks if I had to choose:
Million Dollar Secret features some hilarious lyrics about the pros and cons of marrying a rich old man, ably catalogued by Sunny. She’s hard boiled and soulful, confiding and coy depending on the nuance – this is a great classic song. I love the soaring saxophones nodding in agreement with every syllable. The introductory piano is also stirringly sexy and wonderful, thanks to pianist Bruce Bears.
Look But Don’t Touch must be turned up loud – period. Chunky, heavy shuffles open the piece up in true blues fashion and yeah, okay, they’re not straying too far from the blues canon here but who cares!? This is hot, my friends and Duke is leading every one of them in what they do best – play the blues. They’re transmitting that passion for the genre right through the speaker as well so heed my instructions about the volume …
Frankie and Johnny is a musical free for all, pure instrumentation of the band just going crazy. Listen up.
In summary? This is a really good album – even if you’re not sure about jump blues or even rhythm and blues you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Not dancing is pretty much not an option regardless of your age. And as I have noted in previous reviews here for A Swingin’ Session and again here with Livin’ With the Blues Duke Robillard can deliver the musical goods on a number of different levels and with varieties of styles of music. The guy is also just plain cool.
I’ll stop now – but give it a spin!