Holy Christ, Duke's been listening to Howling Wolf again! The lead cut to his latest features the guitar-slinger as gritty in the Lungs-N-Throat Dept. as he's ever been -- hell, there's even a bit of Beefheart in there -- and the timbre of the entire lead-in track is exactly the essence of Low Down and Tore Up: a jumpin' tribute to the era that saw rock and R&B grabbing their toeholds in the 40s/50s popular music scene, edging Pat Boone and Andy Williams out for some jitterbuggin', raucous, nasty git-down. Robillard steps back into his own vocal style after Quicksand, but one thing becomes very clear as the tracks arise one after another: no one does it better than Da Duke as Low Down commandeers the storied Wayback Wachine, putting ducktail and pompadours on Sherman and Peabody, Marlboros rolled up in the pair's street-corner t-shirt sleeves, ebony cheaters rolling us back to the James Dean era.
The guitar, as always, is the stand-out in this 14-spot of tunes, and Robillard proves to be one of those axemeisters upon whom age only imbues ever heightening integrity and continually solider chops. Not a cut goes by but that the guy trots out licks so damn authentic that any unaware of his name and stature will swear someone copped a hidden stash of vintage treasures and remastered 'em to a fare-thee-well for los listeners modernes. In point of fact, each track is a stompin' jewel from the Jurassic, but none of 'em was ever caught quite like this band downloads 'em. Blues historian Dick Shurman provides extensive notes to the tri-fold package, and, man, completely as a fan, am I ever lovin' that! Would that more labels might treat fans to the inside scoop from vet writers.
Catch the slow old school funk of Blues after Hours if you want a perfect idea of what I mean when I speak to well-preserved elder flavors: no needless flash, no hot rock speedstering, just great old-time well crafted statements in each and every measure, lines lovingly rendered. Should Low Down be played at a vintage car show at any point in the future, you're going to be witness to an impromptu outburst of Grease dance partying and shimmy-boppin'. Sidemen Matt McCabe (piano) and Sax Gordon (saxes) add measurably to the basic foursome, rounding out atmospheres created straight from equipment rescued from time-lost decades. As Shurman noted, Robillard's a gearhead as well as a muso, a cat who collects antique hardware and then presses it back into full-blooded service. Thus, not one dang aspect anywhere in Low Down and Tore Up was neglected, everything coming together to jump from the smoky barrooms and seedy truckstops of yesteryear, not to mention a few ritzy nightclubs, straight into your waiting ears.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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