Artist: Duke Robillard & The Pleasure Kings
Album: Duke's Mood (Live In Bremen, Germany, 1985)
Release: 2022 Duke's career has been long and impressive. He spent over ten years with Roomful of Blues before departing in 1979, becoming the guitarist for singer Robert Gordon and then a member of the Legendary Blues Band. He started the Duke Robillard Band in 1981, eventually adopting the name Duke Robillard and The Pleasure Kings, with whom he toured throughout the 1980s and recorded for Rounder Records. He became a member of The Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1990 to replace Jimmie Vaughan. His list of recording credits is impressive and as long as my arm.
Duke is one of those guys that has the whole blues vocabulary in his hands. He can move through all the subgenres of the blues gracefully and confidently, knocking the ball out of the park on all of it. He sounds completely at home whether he is playing jump blues, old time rock and roll, Texas or Chicago, Jazz and everything in between. Duke's version of Long Gone Baby is an exceptionally cool take on a BB King classic. It has a Killing Floor vibe with tasty and impressive guitar playing to spare. The band is deeply pocketed and drives hard. By the end of the cut he and The Pleasure Kings take the song into an unexpected and welcomed direction that is flirting with Rockabilly, but not quite planting both feet there. A stellar performance! The next cut Tore Up from his first record is one of those songs that gets all the influences rolled into a few short minutes. It reminds me of the great Danny Gatton in the way that it is blues, rock, and country flavored licks all rolled into one hip little rock and roll song that would've been right at home on a Rolling Stones record, which I mean as the highest compliment and tribute to the songwriting! I also really enjoyed the freight train of a shuffle Let Me Love You Baby. A classic blues stomp, rhythmically speaking, played with an absolute take no prisoners conviction. It has a catchy chorus and tremendous guitar solo. His tone is bare bones, letting his fingers, imagination and reverb do all the talking that needs to be said. This live set recorded in Bremen, Germany in 1985 captures everything that has made his career special. Duke is an exceptional guitarist, good singer and prolific songwriter. His playing drives hard, but never leaves the blues space. If I had to guess, the music that influenced him the most was likely recorded before the British Blues Invasion, keeping his take on the blues far closer to the heyday of Chicago blues than what came after the Brits put their spin on the genre. This is a great live set capturing a man of the blues in his prime!