The Duke Meets The Earl

Your chance to write big-time blues reviews. Only two rules: First, if you're connected to the band or artist, go to Shameless Promotion; Second, don't write a book -- keep it relatively short and simple, no 1,000+ word epics.

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The Duke Meets The Earl

Postby blueswriter » Mon Mar 14, 2005 2:54 am

Howdy again... here are some new reviews for your perusal and consideration. There will be more coming throughout the week including a recent Sunnyland Slim release, a new 2-disc set of Memphis Slim recordings (done between 1962 and 1975) which features a large assortment of major-name guests, and other bits and sundries. Enjoy, and as always, comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Ronnie Earl & Duke Robillard
The Duke Meets The Earl
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8 tracks, 72 minutes. Highly recommended. It would be a difficult task to overstate the importance of either Ronnie Earl or Duke Robillard considering the scope of work both artists have delivered in the past three decades, as well as the influence both have had on today's crop of younger guitar slingers. Robillard was the key factor in starting Roomful Of Blues, an outfit he formed and fronted until embarking on a solo career not long after the band's first album appeared (Duke also put in a stint with The Fabulous Thunderbirds). When Robillard exited Roomful, Earl stepped up taking over the guitar slot until he, too, left for a solo career. Each guitarist's catalog has since encompassed a number of different styles, Robillard's efforts have included roots-based rock and roll, swing, jazz, and straight blues while Earl has offered blues, jazz, and gospel, often without the aid of vocalists. This meeting is one many have perhaps hoped for, and its appearance is a blessing for those who can't get enough guitar, but take warning as the cover art displays arch-top instruments while both take the tried-and-true Stratocaster approach. Robillard handles the vocals on three cuts; Big Walter Price's My Tears a lengthy slow blues (clocking in at over 15 minutes), Lookin' For Trouble, a rattling Eddie Taylor gem, and B.B. King's I Need You So Bad, a relaxed shuffle. Mighty Sam McClain guests on Earl's A Soul That's Been Abused while the remainder of the disc is made up of instrumentals; Robillard's West Side Shuffle, T-Bone Walker's Two Bones And A Pick, Magic Sam's What Have I Done Wrong, and Zeb's Thing, a Ronnie-penned tribute to Earl Hooker. For those who might not be familiar with each guitarist's playing, Robillard makes use of a somewhat smoother and rounder tone while Earl's sound is a bit more biting with a deeper reverb. If there's any question as to how accomplished these two are, make no mistake about it, this CD is a clinic of blistering blues guitar, and although both possess a compelling six-string vocabulary, there's nothing in the way of excess, no matter how long the instrumental passages are. Jimmy McGriff's B-3 appears on two tracks, Mark Teixeira takes care of drumming chores, Matt McCabe offers piano, and bass duties are handled by Jesse Williams and Rod Carey. A tour-de-force effort from a pair of guitarists who have the respect and admiration of fans worldwide and a long-awaited one at that.]

Sean Costello
Sean Costello
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13 tracks, 59 minutes. Excellent with reservations. Blues can be a tough road to travel for the younger generation who have picked up the torch in recent years. On one hand there's an ongoing theory that unless your life has been miserable you best look elsewhere to sow your musical seeds, but many offer unconditional support to young players nodding to past masters and bringing others into the fold who might not have found blues otherwise. The other hand is a slippery slope as well - if the artist in question is bringing in influences that are decidely non-blues, there will undoubtedly come cat-calls from purists. In the end, where one stands is entirely an individual decision. Seeing as the reviews posted here, are, without question, far more blues-based, Sean Costello stands in previously-charted territory which could open discussions on your stance; his first three recording projects were unquestionably blues offerings with the occasional foray into other musical styles, but his latest self-titled disc from Tone-Cool/Artemis is far more rooted in soul with an occasional trip off to the straight blues landscape. There's little doubt that Costello is steadily improving as his voice and guitar work are reaching heights and depths missed in the past, but unless your musical preferences are rooted in 1960s soul, this new disc might not carry what you're looking for. With a good cross-section of originals to work from, he manages to sound brilliant on She Changed My Mind, Take It Easy, I've Got To Ride, Father, All I Can Do, Don't Pass Me By and No Half Steppin' - and hands in solid readings of I'm A Ram, Hold On This Time, Simple Twist Of Fate, Peace Of Mind and I Get A Feeling. For blues insomniacs though, only two cuts stand well above the rest; Ride, a well-heated scorcher, and Tommy Johnson's Big Road Blues, a 1950s juke joint slant laced with rough harp, distorted guitar, and Costello's falsetto vocals easily recalling Johnson's eerie abilities in that category. This is a seriously good record with great production, a rock-solid band, and top-notch work from Sean Costello, but the paucity of blues could find many returning to his earlier efforts.]

Albert King
Talkin' Blues
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11 tracks, 56 minutes. Excellent. There's no shortage of top-shelf work available from Albert King and Talkin' Blues marks another entry in King's 'live' performance catalog, this from Chicago in February of 1978. Albert brings his trademark guitar-wrestling, string-strangling approach to the fore with a small band comprised of a rhythm section and some tight horn arrangements. While not as crystal clear sounding as Live Wire/Blues Power, which is regarded by many as the ultimate 'live' Albert release, King tears through Born Under A Bad Sign with complete disregard for manners in guitar playing, The Very Thought Of You (a somewhat odd, syrupy ballad considering his repertoire), Rub My Back, another high-point with incredible power and some nasty 'grace' notes, I'll Play The Blues For You, and Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home. The two standouts are both lengthy tracks loaded with soaring guitar as King rips out a ten-minute Blues At Sunrise and the eleven-minute Please Come Back To Me, where the soundman gets a small dose of King's affable nature for some unwanted microphone feedback. While one of many in a long line of blues Kings, Albert's inimitable style was earmarked by an upside-down ringing attack, incredible volume, and a penchant for bending every subtle, and often unsubtle, nuance from his choice of few notes. While it doesn't rank as Albert's best 'live' recording, there's plenty to appreciate in Talkin' Blues - which gains its title from some interesting interview segments interspersed with a King's brand of blues. ... in%20Blues]

© 2005 by Craig Ruskey
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