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Issue: December 1989

The KYANA Blues Society

Too Hot To Handle: And Then Some

When guitar wizard Duke Robillard and his band played at Uncle Pleasant's on October 29, I decided that if "Too Hot To Handle" isn't his signature tune, it should be, because he's one of the hottest guitar players I have ever heard.

I'm not going to get into the Stevie Ray Vaughan vs Duke Robillard controversy here. All I can say is that I kept expecting the room to burst into flames or, at the very least, for his guitar to melt in Robillard's hands. He was that hot.

Don't get me wrong: he wasn't flashy. He just stood there and made the most incredible sounds come out of his guitar (he played three different ones) seemingly with no effort.

There were moments when, if I hadn't known better, I could have sworn that Les Paul was on stage and, at others, that T-Bone Walker had been reincarnated on stage. There were Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery and Charlie Christian licks as well as lowdown-dirty blues, hot rock 'n' roll and absolutely great rockabilly evocative of the Sun Studio days.

As I said earlier, I'm not going to get involved in the "Best Blues Guitarist" controversy, but I will say that if "The Duke" isn't the best, he most definitely is one of the best. He is also a gracious gentleman who, during his last set, invited Rick Mason, lead, guitarist for opening act Lamont Gillespie and The Homewreckers, to join him on stage. Mason seemed to be scared stiff, his movements wooden, but as he got into the groove, he and Robillard traded licks and wound up doing some fine duet work.

Robillard was also joined on stage at one point by Louisvillian Susan Burgard, who sang several of her R&B originals.

Then, on November 12, when Doug Wright and The Nomads, together with the Legendary Blues Band, gave an excellent evening's entertainment, Robillard joined old friends Will "Big Eyes" Smith and Calvin "Fuzz" Jones of "Legendary" for their last set. Unlike some musicians of his stature who would try to steal the show, Robillard became part of the band, just having a good time with some old friends.

I always enjoy the Legendary Blues Band, but they were even better this time around, thanks to the addition of "Piano Willie" on keyboards. Whether playing honky tonk, barrelhouse, slow blues or hot rockin' boogie, he had a mean right hand and his left wasn't exactly lazy. His was a welcome complement to the harp of "Madison Slim," the drums of Smith and Jones' funky bass.

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