The Duke Robillard Band – Ear Worms | Album Review

The Duke Robillard Band – Ear Worms

Stony Plain Records SPCD 1403

13 songs – 51 minutes

One of the most stylish guitarists on the planet as well as one of its foremost musicologists, Duke Robillard has spent a good portion of his life breathing new life into tunes of bygone eras. This album successfully delivers the sounds he couldn’t get out of his head as a youth – everything from jazz to jump, from swing to blues dating as far back as the ‘30s – and stylishly reworking them for a new generation.

Based out of his home base of Pawtucket, R.I., where he’s fronted his own bands since the ‘80s, Duke’s pedigree is impressive. Not only did he found Roomful Of Blues in 1967, but he spent time in both The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Legendary Blues Band. A producer and label owner in his own right, he’s toured with both Tom Waits and Bob Dylan and recorded with everyone from Ruth Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, Rosco Gordon and Jay McShann to Kim Wilson, Pinetop Perkins and Maria Muldaur, just to name a few.

Most of the songs here have been running through Robillard’s brain since childhood. With the exception of the opener, a Duke original that first appeared in 1988, all of the other tunes are sounds he hasn’t been able to shake since first hearing them in the ‘50s and ‘60s. And his stellar fret work comes to the fore on four dazzling instrumentals.

Robillard, Bears and Teixeira all contribute lead vocals on one cut each of the 13 tracks, which were captured at Lakewest Recording and Duke’s own Mood Room in the Ocean State. The sound’s enhanced by an all-star lineup, which includes vocals from Dave Howard, Julie Grant, Sunny Crownover, Chris Cote, Mark Cutler and Klem Klimek with additional instrumentation from Cutler and Baxter Hall on guitar, Klimick and Doug James on saxes, Jeff “Doc” Chanon on trumpet and Marty Ballou on bass.

A paradiddle military drumbeat opens “Don’t Bother Trying To Steal Her Love” — which Duke released with his band, The Pleasure Kings, in 1988 – but quickly evolves into a rockabilly pleaser with Howard at the mike. Penned by Carole King but a hit for the Righteous Brothers, Duke delivers the vocals on a slow and easy take of “On This Side Of Goodbye” before Cote takes command of the Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth blues, “Living With The Animals.”

Duke soars with an instrumental take on “Careless Love” — a number popularized by Buddy Bolden in New Orleans at the onset of the 21st century – before Grant takes to the mike to reprise Muscle Shoals founder Arthur Alexander’s “Everyday I Have To Cry Some.” It’s déjà vu for her because she had a major hit with the tune herself in 1964 when she recorded it for Pye Records in her native England.

Dylan’s “I Am A Lonesome Hobo” precedes the Brenda Lee classic “Sweet Nothin’s,” the first of two tunes delivered by Crownover before Duke’s six-string talents come front and center for an instrumental cover of “Soldier Of Love,” first released by Alexander on the Dot imprint in 1962. Klimick delivers Chuck Berry’s “Dear Dad” before Bears tackles Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can,” making a rare appearance on the mike – as does Teixeira for the Neville Brothers’ “Yellow Moon,” which follows.

Two beautiful instrumental send-ups of ear worms familiar to anyone who grew up in the late ‘50s — Link Wray’s “Rawhide,” the theme for the early ‘60s TV Western that made Clint Eastwood a star, and Patsy Cline’s classic, “You Belong To Me” – will leave you smiling as the album comes to a close.

Sure, this CD is a time capsule. But don’t let that dissuade you. This is one heck of a production from beginning to end, and there’s plenty of blues here despite the origins of the material.

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