Duke Robillard

September 1, 2009

DUKE ROBILLARD HAS BEEN PERFORMING the blues in all its permutations for more than 40 years. Robillard began his career as a cofounder of Roomful of Blues in 1967, playing classics and originals, as well as backing legends such as Big Joe Turner and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vincent. Throughout the intervening years he has worked with Robert Gordon, the Legendary Blues Band (with Muddy Waters alumni), Duke Robillard & the Pleasure Kings, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and recorded with a diverse group of artists that includes Herb Ellis, J. Geils, John Hammond, Ronnie Earl, Pinetop Perkins, Tom Waits, Kim Wilson, and Jimmy Witherspoon. More recently, his tasty guitar work has graced Dylan’s Time Out of Mind and Ruth Brown’s R+B=Ruth Brown.

Robillard has also been the recipient of numerous awards over the years, not least of all the Blues Music Award for “Best Blues Guitarist” in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004. Additional honors include three Canadian Maple Blues Awards for “Best International Blues Artist,” and two awards from the French Blues Association.

The guitarist’s latest release, Stomp! The Blues Tonight [Stony Plain], is a rousing, horndriven tribute to his R&B heroes, drawing mostly on material from the ’40s and ’50s, some of which he has played since his days with Roomful of Blues. The album includes several vocal performances by Sunny Crownover, an artist Robillard was so enamored with that he assembled a band to back her live and on the recently released Introducing . . . Sunny and Her Joy Boys [Stony Plain], on which he plays swing acoustic guitar.

Stomp! is a departure from your more recent projects.

Well, it is and it isn’t. I did another record back in 1990 with a similar purpose, which is to pay tribute to the blues and R&B heroes that inspired and influenced me in the beginning. It’s kind of part two of that, but I’m more developed in my career at this point, and as far as I’m concerned it is the best blues-oriented record I’ve ever made. The album pays tribute to artists like Wynonie Harris, Roy Milton, T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulsom, and Johnny Watson.

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