Listening to Duke Robillard is like sitting in an old comfortable recliner and rocking as hard as humanly possible without flipping over. Surrounded by a cast of aging but still formidable hard-core blues fanatics on Blues Bash, Robillard serves up a bucketload of leap-and-holler ditties that’ll have even the most geriatric of us jumpin’ for joy.
These guys put the jump back in jump blues, pumpin’ out this stuff like their lives depended on it, which for most of these guys is a pretty accurate assessment of their careers. This collection of blues brothers goes waaaay back in blended band history, with several former Roomful of Blues alumni participating in this Bash. Guitarist Robillard co-founded Roomful in 1967 with pianist Al Copley, but left the band in 1980 to front his own outfits. But the Roomful legacy still continues today with new members carrying on the work he started.
The horn section on Blues Bash is packed with Roomfellas of varying vintage. Greg Piccolo’s vocals and tenor sax were a big part of Roomful’s sound, as are the alto and tenor of current Roomful member (since 1970) Rich Lataille and former member Al Basile’s trumpet and cornet. Robillard is still a formidable presence on guitar, and guest vocalist Chris Cote adds another dimension to the mix with his smooth phrasing and soulful delivery.
Cote comes bustin’ out in full blues shouter mode on the opener, Ike Turner’s “Do You Mean It,” a perfect foil to Robillard’s stinging licks mellowed out by the butter-smooth horn section.
Robillard gets to trot out his Fats Domino vocal chops on Dave Bartholomew’s “Ain’t Gonna Do It,” with Mark Braun ripping up the keys on this ripplin’ rocker that’ll get you up out of the recliner and prancing around in a sweat-flinging frenzy all over the living room.
Might as well put the recliner in the garage and roll up the rug when Roy Milton’s “What Can I Do” cranks up with Cote spittin’ out jump blues as fast as he can get it by his lips. Robillard is all over him, poking him in the back with a volley of prickly riffs while the horns dance all around, honking like a flock of enraged geese.
You can flop down for a brief respite on Robillard’s Mose Allison-like lowdown creeper original “Just Chillin’.” But there’s no rest for the weary on “Give Me All the Love You Got,” an infectious Robillard shuffle that’ll have you scootin’ across the floor and howlin’ like a hound dog with a serious infestation of boogie-woogie fleas.
Blues Bash is a great look back from a blues master who hasn’t lost a step and can still keep you on your toes every time you turn him on.