As the MapleBlues team adjusts to the loss of our esteemed reviewer, JV, it is important that blues artists and their labels make sure that TBS is getting your new release in good time so that it can be assigned to one of the pool of knowledgeable blues influencers who we will call upon for reviews. Thanks this month to Eric Thom, Cindy McLeod, Sandra B. Tooze and TBS Prez Derek Andrews.

Although a house party is not in the cards right now, Duke Robillard’s Stony Plain release Blues Bash! is the next best thing. Robillard, the Grammy-nominated, co-founder of Roomful of Blues, has been at the blues game for more than fifty years, and his wide-ranging experience is on full display in this CD. His bandmates here are Bruce Bears on piano and Hammond organ, drummer Mark Teixeira, and bassists Jesse Williams and Marty Ballou. Accompanying these musicians are a slew of Duke’s friends, adding up to a full, rich band sound with plenty of dynamic horns.
Recorded over a two-day session just as the pandemic hit North America, Blues Bash! is the perfect antidote for the tedium of covid. It’s a showcase for Duke’s superlative Strat playing and expressive vocals. So even if you’re holed up alone, lace up your dancing shoes and get ready to boogie!
The CD lifts you off the sofa with Ike Turner’s rollicking “Do You Mean It,” featuring suave vocals by Chris Cote and Robillard’s scorching guitar above lively horns and a driving bass line. Then Duke sings his own lusty blues composition “No Time,” backed by Mark Hummel’s stellar harmonica. In “What Can I Do,” a hand-clapping swing number, piano, sax and guitar swap exuberant solos.
The tempo slows with “Everybody Ain’t Your Friend” even as the intensity burns with Robillard’s robust vocals and his exceptional guitar work. In “Rock Alley,” an instrumental shuffle, Duke’s guitar trades solos with the sax in a virtuoso performance. For a change of pace, Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson sings the cheeky “You Played on My Piano,” her seductive voice accompanied by silky guitar and saxophone.
The band rocks out in Dave Bartholomew’s 1950 tune “I Ain’t Gonna Do It,” with some standout piano by Mark Braun, and Robillard reprises T-Bone Walker’s recording of “You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’,” with Chris Cote back on vocals fronting some rousing horns. Duke pulls you up on the dance floor in his self-penned number “Give Me All the Love You Got.” Then like a full-bodied, luscious nightcap, “Just Chillin’” closes Blues Bash! with a smooth and seductive jazz groove, featuring outstanding acoustic bass, sax and guitar — a most satisfying finale for a highly enjoyable recording. (Sandra B. Tooze)