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The Duke Robillard Band Will Show You Why They Called It Rhythm & Blues

The blues guitar master welcomes an all-star lineup for his upcoming release.

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Duke Robillard has called on a cadre of VIPs, old pals and special guests to help him out with his upcoming album They Called It Rhythm & Blues.

Arriving March 18 on Stony Plain Records, They Called It Rhythm & Blues finds the two-time Grammy nominee and multiple Blues Music Award-winning guitarist (who also produced) joined by an all-star cast including John Hammond, Kim Wilson, Sue Foley, Sugar Ray Norcia, Michelle Willson, Chris Cote, Bruce Bears, Marty Ballou, Mark Teixeira, Doug James, Mike Flanigin, Mark Earley, Doug Woolverton and Matt McCabe.

Robillard is effusive in his praise for his special guests on They Called It Rhythm & Blues and the magic they helped create in the studio. “I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of the sessions for this album. It’s just a damn good representation of my band, the guest artists and the music we chose to record. I threw in a few of my own tunes written for the occasion also, and it makes a pretty well-rounded package I believe.

Chris Cote, who has taken over most of the vocals in my band since our Blues Bash CD, has been a great band addition. He’s a powerhouse vocalist who can literally sing anything. His six spirited vocals here give the album a pretty high bar to start with. And on top of that he’s a great guitarist also! I have worked with Doug James from the early seventies on and off and he has spent quite a few years as a DRB member. On many of the tunes here, Doug is the whole horn section. He did an extraordinary job and with engineer Graham Mellor’s use of the right ribbon mic on him, Mister Low’s sound was captured like it’s never been captured before.

Mark Earley and Doug Woolverton also added great depth to the tunes they played sax and trumpet on, also. As for the guest vocalists, I was lucky to get help from so many great artists. John Hammond, who I’ve called my friend since the 1970s and toured with many times and recorded with and co-produced his Found True Love album. Recording with John is always a pleasure. On this session, once we had sounds, it was play live and kill it in a take or two. Part of the reason to do more than one take was to prolong the joyous experience. John is always on and always an extreme pleasure to play with.

“There was a tune by Mickey and Sylvia I always wanted to do called No Good Lover, and Sue Foley was quick to OK the tune and idea of recording it with me. I wrote an instrumental as a tribute to Bill Jennings, Billy Butler, Bill Doggett and Wild Bill Davis and both Sue and Mike Flanigin agreed to recording both tunes long distance down in Austin, Texas. I’m really psyched about how they came out and No Good Lover will be our first video for the album!

“Old bandmate from my Thunderbird days Kim Wilson was up for being a guest and we chose two of his early tunes he originally recorded with the T-Birds. I’m pretty damn happy with the results personally! Kim kills both tunes the way he always does — of course. Matt McCabe plays piano on Tell Me Why. Michelle Willson, aka The Evil Gal, gladly added her expertise to two tracks that show her rockin’ R&B side with Champagne Mind and her very deep blues side with her amazing reading of Trouble in Mind.

“I’ve known Sugar Ray Norcia for too many decades to count and anyone who is a true fan of deep Chicago and also jumpin’ R&B knows he is one of the heaviest cats as a vocalist and as a blues harmonica giant. Ray’s rendition of Tampa Red’s Rambler Blues, which originally had Big Walter Horton on harp, was the perfect vehicle for Ray to pay tribute to his old friend Big Walter. Ray suggested Jimmy Nelson’s She’s My Baby, which I wasn’t familiar with, but it sure was a great choice! Again, Ray found a way for his harp to perfectly fit the tune and again, there are echoes of the great Big Walter here, but at the same time it’s pure Sugar Ray!”

Robillard has been defined as not merely a great artist, but also a true historian, scholar and curator who is adept at electric and acoustic blues, jazz, jump, swing, ballads and standards. He proves that with the fluency he demonstrates on the 18 tracks of this album that visits the music that defined what came to be called rhythm & blues. Grammy-nominated and a five-time winner of the Blues Music Award as best guitarist, over his 50-plus year career Duke has been a prolific songwriter and is considered a blues guitar master.

They Called It Rhythm & Blues CD Track Listing

Here I’m Is
No Good Lover | Sue Foley (vocal and guitar); Mike Flanigin (organ)
Fools Are Getting Scarcer
Tell Me Why | Kim Wilson (vocal and harmonica); Matt McCabe (piano)
Rambler Blues | Sugar Ray Norcia (vocal and harmonica)
The Way You Do
Champagne Mind | Michelle Willson (vocal)
Homeless Blues | John Hammond (vocal and guitar)
Outta Here | Anita Suhanin (vocals)
In The Wee Wee Hours
Someday After Awhile
She’s My Baby | Sugar Ray Norcia (vocals and harmonica)
Trouble In Mind | Michelle Willson (vocal)
No Place To Go | John Hammond (vocal and guitar)
The Things I Forgot To Do | Kim Wilson (vocal)
I Can’t Understand It
Eat Where You Slept Last Night
Swingin’ For Four Bills | Sue Foley (guitar); Mike Flanigin (organ)

Pre-order the album HERE.