An album like this should come as no surprise. Duke Robillard paying tribute to T-Bone Walker is about as natural as it gets. Anyone familiar with Duke’s background knows that T-Bone’s music is as essential to his playing as honey is to a bee. The influence has always shone through in his records. Duke’s instructional video “T-Bone Walker: Guitarstyle” shows just how much Duke has gleaned from the master.
But I don’t want to make these 12 cuts sound boring. Duke always adds a little of his own spice to recordings, and this is no exception. Plus, the tunes are that heady mix of jazz and blues that T-Bone favored, and it plays right into Duke’s hands (no pun intended). Check out “T-Bone Boogie.” It swings hard, and the solo is bluesy, and jazzy, and everything in between. “Alimony Blues” is a T-Bone classic that walks the proverbial dog, and has a great lyric. In fact, whenever you hear covers of T-Bone songs, don’t you just marvel at the lyrics? Not only did the man help invent the very foundation of rock and roll guitar and play great blues, but he wrote some of the finest lyrics the genres have to offer.
Duke’s variation on a classic T-Bone intro on “Love is a Gamble” is a thing of pure beauty. The tune kicks off with a chromatic walk-down of 9th chords that rolls into a beautiful slow blues.
Every cut features excellent fretwork, but it might be time to also give Duke recognition for his vocals. Like his playing, his rubbery voice is one of the few that is immediately recognizable in this day and age’s glut of blues records. He growls, he sounds “pretty,” and he never has a problem getting the lyric across. And he likes to share the solo spotlight. Check out the killer baritone sax solo by Doug James on “I’m Still In Love With You.” And if all of that isn’t enough, there’s a great picture of T-Bone on the inside sleeve. A perfect wrap-up to a great record. If you’re a fan of Duke, T-Bone, or just that kind of blues, this one’s for you. – JH
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.