Duke Robillard’s career as one of America’s preeminent blues guitarists is near the five decade mark and so it is a long overdue and welcome surprise that he has issued an acoustic album.
The Acoustic Blues & Roots Of Duke Robillard is an affair of the heart as he reaches back into American music history for many of the songs that had a profound influence on his development as a musician. Country, early blues tunes, and Americana all make appearances in this varied but ultimately satisfying release.
He reaches back to one of the master songwriters of the 19th century for the album’s first track. Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home” is reworked into a delicate and distinct modern translation and sets the tone for what will follow.
A couple of country icons provide material for two of the better tracks. Jimmie Rodger’s “Jimmie’s Texas Blues” and Hank Williams “Let’s Turn Back The Years” provide fodder for his exploration of the connections of early country music and the blues. The Williams tune was one of the simplest of his career and Robillard wisely remains loyal to the original intent.
Every so often Maria Muldaur reappears on the music scene and here she provides the vocal for the 1920’s Christmas song “Santa Claus Blues.” While it first appeared on a blues Christmas compilation album, it now finds a permanent home.
A number of his own compositions are interspersed among the cover songs. “I Miss My Baby In My Arms,” I’m Gonna Buy Me A Dog (To Take The Place Of You),” and “Backyard Paradise” provide a nice counterpoint to the rest of the material, yet do not feel out of place.
Through it all Robillard plays a variety of stringed instruments. The liner notes wisely let him explain each tune and what instruments are being used.
The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard brings a lot of eternal music into the 21st century. One of the better and more focused releases of his career.