Having earlier caught Robillard with Dan Moretti on the Live at Chan's disc (here), I was primed for a whole lot more, and the quintessential Stony Plain label was more than happy to oblige, disbursing the latest from the Duke and his band, Calling All Blues. More, Sunny Crownover's back on vocals, lead and background, and Mark Texeira is as solid ever in the rhythm section, a drummer whose work is a fundamental in the ensemble's sound, never at a loss for just the right rhythms and change-ups. And, believe it or not, over and above all the many many MANY other gigs he's been involved in over the decades, Calling is either Duke's 30th slab as a leader or very close to it.
The opener, Down in Mexico, is quite similar to Ry Cooder's old gem, Down in Hollywood, loaded up with lazy swing and curly-lipped sass well abetted by what may very well be mojito-influenced backing vox, with Duke's bird-on-a-wire guitar work lofting above his own punchy singing until the solo spot comes up, elegant but with that splash of sunshine and bird call one would expect of the cut's atmospherics. I'm Gonna Quit My Baby continues his almost beatnik panache and is it me or is the guy getting more juiced-up as he wanders down the years? There seems to be an extra dimension to his singing, a tone at once jauntier and more cynical than before.
The Ben Sidrany Confusion Blues kinda offsets that, a ditty dedicated to perplexity in the modern world, a plaint strutting Bruce Bears' saloon pianistics atop a walking bass line, Duke's be-boppy guitar licks scoring the pair. Sunny takes on the torchy Blues Beyond the Call of Duty with an even more morose downbeat, a heartwrench caused by choosing the wrong guy and getting stuck on him (o ye wimmens, how oft the happenstance passeth!). It all works out well, though, in the jumpy She's So Fine, rescuing not only the object of Robillard's lyrical affections but also the CD's flirtations with the down at the heels schtuff constituting the warp and weave of the blues. Of course, if'n ya wants things a bit rougher than that, program the disc to play Nasty Guitar last instead, a cut with a ZZ Top structure and smoky lyrics to it but not as glaring and distorted as Billy 'n da boyz would shake things out…though not all that far away either.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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