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DUKE ROBILLARD, Passport To The Blues—If you’re feeling a little down, maybe been dumped by your favorite gal or guy, having trouble making ends meet, or spotted the first gray hairs surfacing, Duke’s office is open at all hours. He’ll stamp your passport for the blues train and have you on your way and feeling better in no time at all.
PEACHES STATEN, Live at Legends—If Etta James were somehow crossed with Tina Turner, the resulting irresistible creature would likely sound much like the powerhouse known as Peaches Staten. That would be someone whose muscular voice can growl an aggrieved blues, belt a celebratory blues, or sing it sweet and gritty all at once, as she does in an epic 10-minute gospel-infused workout declaiming against betrayal in “I’d Rather Go Blind” on her rousing live album recorded at Buddy Guy’s Legends club in Chicago, the city where the Mississippi-born Staten was raised and learned all about the blues from the ground up.
THE LUCKY TOMBLIN BAND, Honky Tonk Merry Go Round—There’s a good reason the Lucky Tomblin Band is revered in Austin, its home base, and among honky tonk aficionados worldwide. You would expect a high bar to be set by a band with cream-of-the-crop players such as guitarist Redd Volkaert, piano man Earl Poole Ball, bassist-vocalist Sarah Brown, guitarist John Reed and drummer Jon Hahn supporting the genial, muscular vocals of Lucky himself. And sure enough, on Honky Tonk Merry Go Round, all acquit themselves admirably and more.
TEENY TUCKER, Keep The Blues Alive—In his incisive liner notes for Teeny Tucker’s Keep the Blues Alive, producer-arranger-guitarist Robert Hughes relates how B.B. King told Ms. Tucker, “I want you to remember that you are not only a blues singer, you are a singer.” A formidable singer and blues singer himself, the now 85-year-old Riley B. King knows whereof he speaks, and Ms. Tucker proves the truth of his assertion with her every stirring note on Keep the Blues Alive. Yes, the form may be blues, or blues-based, but in the end Ms. Tucker vaults into the realm of pure, moving, human emotions, leaving in the dust all considerations of genre. This is good music, pure and simple.
MITCH WOODS, Gumbo Blues—You could say Mitch Woods’s Gumbo Blues tribute to Smiley Lewis and New Orleans’ R&B pioneers is fairly predictable Crescent City rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ fare, high spirited, effervescent, and bracing even in its bluest moments, and you would be right. But when you’re fairly predictable in New Orleans kind of way, you have got something special going on in the way of tapping into elemental human impulses; so while the sound and style of Gumbo Blues will be comfortably familiar to many listeners, its energy and soul recommend it as one darn fine outing.