I’ve been following The Duke Robillard Band for about 25 years now, and Low Down & Tore Up just reminded me why. With a voice that congers Howlin’ Wolf, and gutbucket rockin’ blues delivered with a live feeling, this is good times get-on-the-floor or “order another round of beers while I dance with your baby” music.
This is not an academic study of blues history, nor an exploration of the different genre of the blues. This is gritty, honking sax, honkytonk piano and screaming guitars. It makes you want to comb your hair in a DA, and put some grease in it. Dust off your best kicks and knot up a skinny tie and grab your baby, we’re going to get Low Down & Tore Up tonight.
All the usual suspects are here, of course. Duke Robillard is on vocals and is the guitarist that B.B. King called “one of the greatest players, one of God’s guitarists.” Bruce Bears is on honkytonk piano, Brad Hallen plays the “dog-house bass,” Mark Teixeira bangs the skins and covers vocals on one track, and Matt McCabe contributes piano on a few tracks. Laying down the honk on tenor sax is Sax Gordon.
“What’s Wrong” by the Duke Robillard Band from the album Low Down And Tore Up
There was a time in America, back in the late ‘40s and early ’50s when bands like this were making the best “singles” around, and it was made just like this, on small labels. That was the birth of rhythm and blues. Then a young guitar virtuoso named Ike Turner released a single called “Rocket 88,” and they called it rock n’ roll. A truck driver from Memphis channeled that sound and brought it to white audiences and it became the most popular music in the world. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, English kids name John, Paul, George, Ringo, Mick, Keith, Brian, Alan Price, Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler and a host of others gave a new voice to that down home feeling. A the spirit still lives some 70 years later.
This latest installment in the legacy of Duke Robillard affirms that it was no fluke he was Grammy-nominated for the album Stomp The Blues Tonight. It’ll also give you a hint of why Duke has been a session player for more mainstream artists like Bob Dylan, Dr. John, John Hammond, has shared a stage with B.B. King and toured with Tom Waits’ band. This is rousing and rocking roots music, at it’s lowdown best.