Duke Robillard and I have only one thing in common. We were both born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at about the same time. However, he moved from the city of his birth to the wilds of Burriville, Rhode Island, before settling in Westerly. Since that time, he has gone on to become one of the premier blues guitarists alive. And well, here I am.
He formed his first band, Roomful Of Blues, during 1967 with pianist Al Copley. He left during 1980 but the band is still active despite nearly 50 musicians having been members at various times. His next stint as a band member occurred when he replaced Jimmie Vaughan as the guitarist in the Fabulous Thunderbirds, from 1990-1992. For the last 20 years, he has been on his own, recording dozens of albums as a solo artist and session musician, plus has consistently toured, playing over 200 shows a year.
He has now returned with his newest release, Low Down and Tore Up. It is basically a live album recorded in the studio. His band now consists of pianist Bruce Bears, bassist Brad Hallen, and drummer Mark Teixeira. Additional musicians include pianist Matt McCabe and saxophone player “Sax” Gordon (Beadle).
Any new Robillard release should have guitar lovers salivating. His latest is a raw affair that finds him attacking the material with gusto. There is little, if any overdubbing, so what he and his band played is what you get.
The choice of material was interesting and well thought out. I don’t know how many blues songs Duke Robillard has covered during the course of his career but here he chooses some lesser known tunes by such artists as Pee Wee Crayton, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Eddie Jones, and Mel London, among others. Whether it’s slow blues, up-tempo blues, or somewhere in between, it does not matter, as he modernizes such tunes as “Mercy Mercy Mama,” ”Later For You Baby,” “Do Unto Others,” “Let Me Play With Your Poodle,” and “Want Ad Blues.”
Duke Robillard rarely disappoints his blues fans, and Low Down and Tore Up is no exception. If you are a fan of the blues or of Duke Robillard, then this is an album that is a must listen. After all, he’s from Woonsocket.