Stony Plain Records
Duke Robillard is one of the most heralded recording artists, guitarists and producers in the blues genre. He founded Roomful of Blues in 1967 but left that band two years later to form his own. Between 1985 and 2017 Robillard released thirty-three albums; the last being “Duke Robillard & His Dames of Rhythm”. He has also recorded albums with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Joe Beard, Herb Ellis, Jay McShann, Ruth Brown, Eddy Clearwater, Jimmy Witherspoon, Snooky Pryor, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Boy Arnold, Joe Louis Walker and Bob Dylan; and that is the short list.
Not included is Robillard’s production credits having produced countless albums for others. When deciding which albums to keep by a particular artist one always keeps the ones produced by Robillard. Robillard’s talents have garnered him a total of twenty-two Blues Music Award nominations winning that trophy six times. Robillard also has more nominations for Guitarist of The Year than any other, and won more times than anyone except Buddy Guy.
The Duke Robillard Band includes Robillard, guitar and vocal; Bruce Bears, keyboards; Brad Hallen, acoustic and electric bass; and Mark Teixeira, drums and percussion. Recorded at Jack Gauthier’s Lakewest Recording, and at Duke’s Mood Room, other musicians and vocalists guest throughout the recording.
Robillard states “Ear Worms was conceived as an album of songs that I heard and was attracted to growing up, they are not of one particular genre or style, but rather songs I heard in my pre-teens to my later teens, with the exception of a few songs which I threw into the mix to round out the overall album vibe; sounds that stuck in my head, in many cases before I knew what the blues was. I guess you could call them ‘ear worms’.
Robillard further explains that often the ‘ear worms’ were from the way these songs were produced. “Why did they fade out…my ear was tuned in to a recording’s sound and the way the music and sound made me feel”. “When I was a young boy…my brother’s collection of the latest rock and roll singles…were my strongest influence…I am a believer that all music that you hear affects you in some way, so by about 1970 I started steering away from pop/rock…preferring not to be influenced by anything but the blues and jazz from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. That part of my life created the purist part of me.”
The recording opens with the only Robillard original “Don’t Bother Trying to Steal Her Love” sung by former “Roomful of Blues” vocalist Dave Howard who appeared on Roomful’s 2008 album “Raisin’ A Ruckus”; and who also sings with New England’s “Neil and The Vipers”. “On This Side of Goodbye” was written by Gerry Goffin/Carole King and recorded by The Righteous Brothers in 1966; Robillard takes the vocal while Doug James and Klem Klimek, saxophones; and trumpeter Jeff “Doc” Chanon sit in.
“Everyday I Have To Cry Some” written by Arthur Alexander, was first recorded by Steve Alaimo in 1962 and recorded by Dusty Springfield in 1964. British vocalist Julie Grant also recorded the song in 1964 and she is featured in a duet with Sunny Crownover. “Sweet Nothin’s” a 1959 single for Brenda Lee hit #4 on the Billboard charts in 1959; it is also sung by Crownover. Chuck Berry’s “Dear Dad” is sung by Klimek.
“Living with the Animals” written and sung by R.P. St. John was the title track to Mother Earth’s 1968 debut recording; that band also featured vocalist Tracy Nelson. Here it is sung by the Boston based Chris Cote while Marnie Hall plays violin. “I Am A Lonesome Hobo” is the Bob Dylan classic from his 1967 album “John Wesley Harding” and is sung by Providence, Rhode Island’s Mark Cutler.
“Yes We Can” was written by Allen Toussaint and recorded by Lee Dorsey in 1970 and again by The Pointer Sisters in 1973 re-titled “Yes We Can, Can”; the vocal here is by keyboardist Bears. Aaron Neville’s “Yellow Moon” was the title track to The Neville Brothers 1989 album and it is sung by Teixeira.
Interspersed throughout the recording are instrumental versions of “Soldier of Love” written by Buzz Carson and Tony Moon and first recorded in 1962 by Alexander; the traditional “Careless Love”, popularized by Elvis Presley; “You Belong To Me” recorded by Joni James in 1952; and “Rawhide”. Robillard has affection for the latter and its inclusion is a tribute to one of his heroes, writer/guitarist Link Wray. These fabulous showcases feature great guitar passages from Robillard and fine organ from soloist Bears.
Each track brings another stellar performance from this band. While Robillard has achieved practically every milestone in his illustrious career one has eluded him. The Duke Robillard Band is again a contender for “Band of The Year”.