18 tracks/running time 59:02
Fabled troubadour Duke Robillard distills the sweet waters of the music rooted primarily from the time of the beginning of recorded music through the 1940s to offer us great examples of why his artistry is so highly regarded.
This labor of love was a ten year project. From the reworking of the minstrelsy Stephen Foster composition “My Old Kentucky Home“, through the concluding track, “Ukulele Swing”, Robillard’s latest release is a road map of the Americana horn of plenty, threading the connected tapestry of Blues, Country, Appalachian/Ozark inflected and Jazz influences.
In addition to vocals, Master Robillard plays a variety of instruments on this effort, including acoustic guitar, dobro, mandolin, tenor harp (banjo), ukulele and cumbus.
His supporting cast of players includes architect of the Sound of Kansas City, the late Jay McShann, who plays piano on track 17, “Profoundly Blue”, a Meade Lux Lewis composition that was recorded before McShann’s passing in 2006. Matt McCabe handles keyboard duties on the rest of the project.
The feminine side of the presentation is represented by guest vocalists Maria Muldaur and Sunny Crownover with Mary Flower contributing acoustic finger style and lap slide guitar with vocals.
Acoustic bass chores are handled by Marty Ballou and John Packer. Pounding skins is Mark Texeira with Marty Richards taking over on track 16. The horn section consists of Billy Novick on clarinet, Doug James on bari sax (track 16) and harmonica on track 13. Dave Babcock plays tenor sax (track 16) with the great Jerry Portnoy handling harmonica on tracks 7 & 9.
The Providence Mandolin Orchestra provides string support on track 11 and Jon Ross plays mandolin on track 6 with Russell Gusetti accompanying on concertina.
Interpretations of a myriad of composers are covered here including the aforementioned, Meade Lewis and Stephen Foster as well as Big Bill Broonzy, Jimmie Rodgers, Robbie Robertson, Eric Moore, Eddie Miller, Alton & Rabon Delmore, W.C. Handy, Tampa Red, Sleepy John Estes, Hank Williams, Sr., Robert Jr. Lockwood, Charlie Straight, Gus Kahn and of course, Duke Robillard.
All of the selections on this production are strong . “Big Bill Blues” is so in the pocket it has the listener looking for change. An added bonus is the four page booklet insert which details some production techniques, Duke’s personal instrument selection for each tune, orchestration notes and historical origins of each song. He faithfully notes for example, that Stephen Foster was not politically correct by today’s values but represented lyrically the dark era of slavery that America has endured. The insert also fronts a nice cover painting by Gerald Robillard.