By Doug Levine
If you’re in the mood for some great electric blues, look no further than two new releases from Stony Plain Records.
First, veteran guitarist, singer and bandleader Duke Robillard treats us to his signature blend of R&B, rock, jazz and Tex-Mex on his new album, “Independently Blue.”
I remember hearing the name Duke Robillard back in the ‘60s when he co-founded Rhode Island’s premier modern jump blues band Roomful of Blues. He was also a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and has played alongside Tom Waits, Pinetop Perkins and Bob Dylan. Over the years, Duke has earned two Blues Music Awards for Best Blues Guitarist, and he was nominated for two Grammy Awards: one for Best Traditional Blues Album and another for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
When Duke turned 64 last October, many wondered (myself included), if retirement was in the picture. Not a chance. In a quote from the liner notes to his new album he remarks, “These days I tend to gravitate towards material that reflects my age and stage in life.”
In this clip, the Duke Robillard Band blends a little Dixieland jazz with old-fashioned boogie woogie on “Patrol Wagon Blues,” featuring guest guitarist Monster Mike Welch.
Also new from Stony Plain comes “Just For Today” by Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters.
New York native Ronnie Earl took a serious interest in the guitar after seeing a Muddy Waters concert in college. He later performed with various bands in Chicago, New Orleans and Austin, before replacing none other than Duke Robillard as the lead guitarist in Roomful of Blues.
In 1988, he formed his band The Broadcasters, naming it after the model of his very first Fender Telecaster guitar.
Ronnie wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on “Just For Today,” including tributes to his blues heroes Hubert Sumlin and Robert Nighthawk. He recorded the album at three distinctive venues in Massachusetts: the 97-year old Regent Theatre in Arlington, known locally as “Arlington’s Show Place of Entertainment”; in a former firehouse preserved by the Center for the Arts in Natick; and along the waterfront district at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River.
Now 60, Ronnie admits he has more passion for music today than ever before. He told his label that “Playing, for me, is a very emotional experience,” adding, “I put every particle of my soul into it.”
Check out “Vernice’s Boogie” from “Just For Today,” featuring some fine piano playing by band member Dave Limina.