Duke Robillard ‘The Acoustic Blues and Roots of’ (DixieFrog) 4/5

duke-robillardFour times voted blues guitarist of the year and, having worked with musicians as varied and prestigious as Bob Dylan, Roomful of Blues and Tom Waits, Duke Robillard returns with an all-acoustic blues album which is a heartfelt homage to the roots of American folk-blues, taking in Appalachian, old-time, boogie-woogie, country, honky-tonk and a whole gamut of music styles that are performed in an acoustic setting. It is a highly entertaining journey into the very roots of the American music tradition and in so doing focuses attention on the close connections between the genres and explores compositions associated with Big Bill Broonzy, Sleepy John Estes, W.C. Handy. Meade Lux Lewis and Hank Williams. Early barrel-house piano accompanies Duke on the delightful ‘Big Bill Blues’ while clarinet and guitar combine on ‘I miss my baby in my arms’. Maria Muldaur guests on vocals on the excellent ‘Evangeline’ while Duke reverts to dobro and mandolin. In fact Duke Robillard throughout the album performs on a multitude of stringed instruments and on ‘I’d rather drink muddy water’ records on all instruments bar the bass solo which is left to the late John Packer to fill in on. The original 1930s style is adopted for this all-time classic composition and this is a most refreshing reading of the old chestnut. Country-blues is another style showcased and Jimmy Rodgers is the subject matter on ‘Jimmy’s Texas Blues’. Bonus tracks from a previous US 2004 album ‘Blues Mood’ make this an excellent value CD. A beautifully illustrated fold out sleeve with notes by the leader and a lovely hand painted picture provides the ideal personalised touch to an album that is sure to be among the best albums of the year awards. Par for the course for a musician as distinguished as Duke Robillard.

Tim Stenhouse