Guitar heroes with taste always seem to live in the margins, and Duke Robillard is no exception. The founder of Roomful of Blues has a tuneful, supple way with rockabilly, jazz and soul-inflected blues that should appeal to anyone with an ear for lyrical leads and painterly chords and riffs. It's no wonder he's been employed by Bob Dylan, John Hammond and Pinetop Perkins. But Robillard's own material represents some of the richest mainstream blues in recent decades. 1988's Rockin' Blues, released during a short-lived blues crossover, is a study in Steve Cropper-like efficiency compared to its blockbuster contemporaries, and Robillard's recent work is a classy argument against the contrived rawness of younger players. True, his voice is hardly distinctive -- and he doesn't wear leather chaps, have a rattlesnake tattoo on his chest, or time flashpots to go off with his solos. But you can't have everything, can you?
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