Duke Robillard has, I suspect, located the Fountain of Youth, and that wry little grin seen on his mug on the cover to Independently Blue kinda gives ya the lowdown. He knows something the rest of us don't, and the succession of very solid CDs that issue from him prodigiously in various configurations would put 25 and 30-year olds to shame even at their most ambitious. But whether or not the guy wrestled with his GPS for Ponce de Leons' infamous well, or perhaps even with Dick Clark, is to the side. What matters is the fact that Robillard's blues are so damn meaty, rib-sticking, and down-home greasy that you damn near mistake 'em for a sonic BBQ. He doesn't so much play the blues as wrangle the form like a cowboy roping cattle, riding 'em down Main Street, lumbering with stomp-footed gravity while yee-hawing and knocking back a fifth before climbing down off the lead bull to mingle with the townies.
Omar Kent Dykes does much the same thing, and so does 'Monster' Mike Welch, the latter of whom doesn't just guest here but plays tandem with Duke through the entire release. Welch was so monikered by no less a personage than Blues Bro and House of Blues co-owner Dan Aykroyd, and his style dovetails like hand in glove with Robillard's, the pair frequently indistinguishable from one another. Ah, but Duke has an ace card as well, that singing voice of his, which gets up from the gutter after a roistered night in Patrol Wagon Blues. He tolls out a damn-I'm-nicked-again! lament with a rueful smile and begrudging acquiescence, Doug Wolverton's skylark trumpet working hard to lure his wayward backside into the saloon once again, Billy Novick's impish clarinet dancing behind both of 'em.
Note also the presence, writing-wise, of Al Basile, a cat more than familiar with the mode, the mood, and the milieu. In fact, the whole of Independently Blue is a wildcat full-moon dimension of nothing but Duke, Mike, and Al right from the start, with Basile's lo-down I Wouldn't-a Done That managing to be invigorating and nasty simultaneously. You can tell from Duke's voice that he's remonstrating while also understanding the whys and wherefores of the unstated trespass all too well, having been there himself, and that's EXACTLY why his work is so solid. He's been there, he's done dat, knows the difference, and then figured out what it all means. Every note and measure is proof—80 proof, come to think of it—and each listener knows it without argument. Just grab this or anything the gent's done and then try to tell me I'm lyin'. I dare ya.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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