Devil’s In The Details by Rick Demers

January 19, 2013

And now from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the birth place of blues artist Duke Robillard and one semi-proficient music reviewer, comes singer/songwriter Rick Demers.

The Blackstone River meanders through the old mill city of Woonsocket. The wooden textile mills are long gone, but the blue collar culture of the community remains. It is that culture that forms the foundation for the stories of Rick Demers.

His music is a cross between simple blues and a roots sound. He primarily supplements his vocals and acoustic guitar playing with guitarist, bassist, and drummer Jim Kelly, plus fills in the sound with a violin here and some keyboards there. His strength is as a lyricist. The title of the album, Devil’s In The Details, is appropriate as his stories are concise and well-defined. He has a way putting his feelings and thoughts into words that are affecting and entertaining.

He avoids one of the major pitfalls that plague debut albums. He varies the tempos which eliminates a sameness to his music. That is immediately apparent with the first three tracks, “What’s Not to Like,” “Poster Child for the Blues,” and “Devil’s in The Details.” They run the gamut from slow acoustic American blues to some up-tempo folk/rock. He is an acoustic guitarist and uses his backing musicians judicially as he builds his sound to support his stories. He also includes the lyrics in the enclosed booklet.

At its foundation this is a songwriter’s album. “Bad Timing,” as the title suggests, looks at the failings of life and love that are sometimes out of our control. He sings the song with a subtle resignation. “Poster Child for the Blues” is one of only two non-original tunes on the album. He adds some extra lyrics to Marjorie Thompson’s blues epic. It emerges as an autobiographical statement of why he sings the blues. “Paradise Lost” is a wonderful tale of searching. While the stories take the listener in many directions, the album ends on a positive note with “Perfect World,” which looks to a better future.

Rick Demers has released an interesting and alluring album. Devil’s In The Details is a journey through the mind and soul of someone who grew up in an old mill town along the Blackstone River in Northern Rhode Island and is worth a listen.

Article first published as Music Review: Rick Demers – Devil’s In The Details on Blogcritics.

Low Down and Tore Up by The Duke Robillard Band

October 7, 2011

Duke Robillard and I have only one thing in common. We were both born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at about the same time. However, he moved from the city of his birth to the wilds of Burriville, Rhode Island, before settling in Westerly. Since that time, he has gone on to become one of the premier blues guitarists alive. And well, here I am.

He formed his first band, Roomful Of Blues, during 1967 with pianist Al Copley. He left during 1980 but the band is still active despite nearly 50 musicians having been members at various times. His next stint as a band member occurred when he replaced Jimmie Vaughan as the guitarist in the Fabulous Thunderbirds, from 1990-1992. For the last 20 years, he has been on his own, recording dozens of albums as a solo artist and session musician, plus has consistently toured, playing over 200 shows a year.

He has now returned with his newest release, Low Down and Tore Up. It is basically a live album recorded in the studio. His band now consists of pianist Bruce Bears, bassist Brad Hallen, and drummer Mark Teixeira. Additional musicians include pianist Matt McCabe and saxophone player “Sax” Gordon (Beadle).

Any new Robillard release should have guitar lovers salivating. His latest is a raw affair that finds him attacking the material with gusto. There is little, if any overdubbing, so what he and his band played is what you get.

The choice of material was interesting and well thought out. I don’t know how many blues songs Duke Robillard has covered during the course of his career but here he chooses some lesser known tunes by such artists as Pee Wee Crayton, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Eddie Jones, and Mel London, among others. Whether it’s slow blues, up-tempo blues, or somewhere in between, it does not matter, as he modernizes such tunes as “Mercy Mercy Mama,” ”Later For You Baby,” “Do Unto Others,” “Let Me Play With Your Poodle,” and “Want Ad Blues.”

Duke Robillard rarely disappoints his blues fans, and Low Down and Tore Up is no exception. If you are a fan of the blues or of Duke Robillard, then this is an album that is a must listen. After all, he’s from Woonsocket.

Article first published as Music Review: The Duke Robillard Band – Low Down and Tore Up on Blogcritics.