By Bobby Reed | Published December 2014
Guitarist Duke Robillard, 66, and vocalist-harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, 79, make a great team. The guitarist has collaborated with the Blues Hall of Famer before, having produced his 2001 album Boogie ’N’ Shuffle. Robillard fulfills the same role on The Blues Soul Of Billy Boy Arnold, contributing tasteful, taut guitar solos, often preceded by the leader’s encouraging cue “Alright, Duke.” Arnold’s delivery sometimes sounds midway between talking and singing, but Robillard’s production frames the leader’s vocals with muscular instrumentation and a few punchy horn charts played by members of Roomful of Blues: trumpeter Doug Woolverton and saxophonists Rich Lataille (alto and tenor) and Mark Earley (tenor and baritone). The result is a traditional blues disc with a hearty dose of soul. Arnold offers sturdy renditions of songs penned by B.B. King (“Worried Dream”), Chuck Berry (“Nadine”) Mack Rice (“Coal Man”) and Joe Tex (“A Mother’s Prayer”), as well the traditional tune “St. James Infirmary” and three original numbers. Arnold adds fiery blues harp to some tracks, including his rendition of Ted Taylor’s 1963 tune “You Give Me Nothing To Go On.” The album closes with the bouncy original “Keep On Rubbing,” in which a jubilant Arnold sings, “My mama had a washboard and a brand-new tub/ My daddy had one old, dirty shirt, and they began to rub.” This album will please longtime fans as well as those who are just now discovering Arnold.