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DUKE ROBILLARD Guitar Groove A Rama
Dixie Frog DFGCD 8606 (2006)

Duke Robillard has been around long enough and is highly regarded enough to be able to step out in the manner of JJ Cale and record another Duke Robillard album. What this means is that although broadly speaking he works in the blues idiom he basically plays what he enjoys, applying his unique deft guitar tone along the way, and leaving the aficionado's smiling. And that is really who this album is aimed at.

For all his wide and varied musical background spanning Roomful of Blues, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Hammond, Dr John etc, Duke Robillard's ultimate achievement has been that he has carved out his own musical niche. That being the case, 'Guitar Groove A Rama' is a gloriously eclectic showcase for his enduring talent. For in terms of taste, style, tone and sheer diversity Robillard is unique, and what his vocals may lack in strength he makes up for with his guitar.

While 'Guitar Groove A Rama' may be loosely called a blues album, there are enough forays into jazz and beyond to render classification irrelevant. Put simply this is a guitar album whose occasional indulgences are more than worth exploring. Opening with a Roy Buchanan sounding, swampy 'Do the Memphis Grind', Duke takes you on a mind boggling journey of innovation, great playing and moments of true inspiration.

For example there's an unusual jazzy interpretation of 'Danny Boy' and Duke's delicate touch on three different guitars brings to life the old Temptations number 'Sewn Up'. He further excels himself on the thinly disguised 'No Way Out' - a slightly Latinesque rejigged version of Elmore James' 'One Way Out'. The number is full of lovely tone colouration and guitar/cornet double lines, with the big guitar tone reminiscent of Albert Collins, but always Robillard at heart.

The following 'This Dream' is a superb exploratory slice of mellow jazz that opens into a startling psychedelic end-piece that would not have disgraced the Gratetful Dead. The Albert Collins guitar feel reappears on 'Cookin', a rousing Jump Blues of the highest order.

Doubtless most reviewers will pay due attention to Duke's long time, 16 minute party trick of working his way through the ten most influential blues guitarist from Muddy Waters through to Buddy Guy/Albert Collins, but significantly the piece is top and tailed by Duke as himself. For Robillard is a master guitarist of many hues and colours, but ultimately as this album gloriously confirms, a magnificent guitarist in his own right.


Review by Pete Feenstra

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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