Ronnie Earl & Duke Robillard – The Duke Meets The Earl

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The Duke Meets the Earl seems like an obvious album, pairing two of New England’s finest contemporary blues guitarists, Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl, who both share the same sort of hard, clear tone in their playing (Earl actually replaced Robillard in Roomful of Blues when the latter left the group for a solo career). For Earl, who has been working in a kind of jazz blues hybrid style in recent years, it marks a return to straight blues, and with guests like Jimmy McGriff and Mighty Sam McClain aboard on select tracks, The Duke Meets the Earl has the feel of a super session. Throughout, Earl’s guitar is featured in the left channel and Robillard’s in the right, leading to some wonderful guitar dialogues, particularly on an epic, nearly 16-minute-long version of Walter Price’s “My Tears.” Another extended workout occurs on “A Soul That’s Been Abused,” an Earl original, which features McClain on vocals and stretches out to just over 13 minutes. McGriff brings his Hammond B-3 magic to two cuts, Eddie Taylor’s “Lookin’ for Trouble” and B.B. King’s “I Need You So Bad,” while the B-3 part on “A Soul That’s Been Abused” is handled by Dave Limina. Other highlights include covers of T-Bone Walker’s “Two Bones and a Pick,” Magic Sam’s “What Have I Done Wrong,” and Earl’s smooth, clear slide style on another original, “Zeb’s Thing.” With only eight tracks, but clocking in at over 70 minutes, The Duke Meets the Earl gives these two fine guitarists plenty of room to talk to each other, and the result is a classy set of no-frills contemporary blues, with just the slightest hint of jazz to keep it all smooth.

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