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VCV: Duke Robillard – “Stomp The Blues Tonight”

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One of the things that can drive me nuts as a reader is when an author spends four pages describing a tree, trying to impress with their linguistic agility or imposing an oppressive sense of setting on readers. I’m familiar with trees. We can move on… unless there is something significant about that tree.

Like it or not, most people have a stereotype of the blues in their head. I know this because I recognize the knowing look and nod when I tell people I’m a member of the Blues Foundation or that I listen to the blues or they ask me about an artist I’m listening to they’re unfamiliar with and tell them he or she is a blues artist. They get a picture and a sound in their head and they’re not always wrong. They would be about Duke Robillard.

“Stomp The Blues,” the title track of his 2010 Blues Music Award-nominated album, mines terrain not famously associated with the genre. Robillard’s blues on this record swings with sophistication, powered by the sleek rhythm section and shiny horn section. These are polite, urbane blues with a big band feel preferring to jump and dance rather than wail and moan. I have to confess, that’s not really my thing. It’s not the blues sound that turns me on, at least until Duke assumes his role as band leader and peels off a guitar solo. His guitar fits well in this smooth blues setting, but he can snap biting leads that provide just the slightest bit of grit to the otherwise glassy sound.

In the liner notes that accompany the record, Robillard says “Stomp” was written to set the tone for the rest of the record. Mission: accomplished.

About Josh Hathaway

  • http://dagoddess.com Joanie

    that’s actually an apt way to put it, Josh. Me? I’ll take the blues in any form but I do prefer them to have a rougher, rawer edge. Knowing that Duke’s taken the time to scruff it up a bit — turning pretty to gritty (to borrow from Project Runway’s S7 cast — gives me hope. Gotta get back to listening now to see if there’s enough sharpness to go with the smoooooove

  • Josh Hathaway

    I can usually find something to appreciate in any blues form if it’s well done, and Duke is a master. Swing doesn’t have the same pull for me that some of those other forms do, but Duke does it well.