Smack dab in the middle of his latest album, Guitar Groove-a-Rama, the chameleonic blues-guitar hero Duke Robillard takes the opportunity to pay respects to an array of inspirations on a tune he calls “Blues-a-Rama.” Over the course of the track’s 16-minute duration he moves through different keys and convincingly mimics the guitar styles of blues players, including Guitar Slim, the Kings—B.B. and Freddie—Albert Collins and ending with the “style” of Robillard, a jazz-flavored sound, in the guitarist-challenging key of E-flat.
A hot veteran blues player and an everastute student of the music, Robillard digs deep into his talents on the new album, but also into the acknowledged roots of his varied guitar vocabulary. Among the stops on the map of his tributes is a nod to Ray Charles with “I’ll Do Anything But Work,” a swinging tune showcasing Robillard’s supple way with jazz playing, spinning out limber, clean-toned lines.
But the tone and attitude keep changing, track to tack, immediately switching to a bright biting tone for “One Way Out”—made famous in rock culture by the Allman Brothers but here with homage to the original source, Sonny Boy Williamson. Also on the menu of admired legends are James Burton and Steve Cropper on “Do the Memphis Grind” and, to close, the easy-grooving sinister rumba swank of “Dark Eyes.”
All in all, the album is as much a mosaiclike tribute record as it is a Robillard session, per se, but not many players could pull off so many stylistic variations as neatly and with such genuine feeling.