WESTERLY — Facebook followers of Duke Robillard, the legendary blues musician who co-founded Roomful of Blues with his Westerly high school pal Al Copley close to 50 years ago, are treated to all sorts of marvelous tid-bits, updates and announcements – from updates on his beloved Dachsund Lucy (who just made a miraculous Christmas recovery) to political memes, fabulous selections of music, samples of his art work and information about his most recent releases.
They were also treated to the news that the man once called “a soloist of stunning force and originality” by The New York Times will return to the Knickerbocker Café Sunday night for his annual New Year’s Eve “Jump’n Blues Party of the Duke Robillard Band.”
Duke and his band are preparing for a memorable evening … an evening that has become a popular New Year’s Eve tradition.
”It’s just really an excellent night,” said Robillard last week from his home in Pawtucket. “It’s always a great New Year’s Eve and a great night for dancing … people love to dance at the Knick.”
Robillard, who has been thrilling audiences for three decades now playing with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Jay McShann, John Hammond, the late Jimmy Witherspoon, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, and the Canadian band The Rockin' Highliners, was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame in 2014.
Earlier this year, Robillard released an album called “Duke Robillard And his Dames of Rhythm,” an album full of 20’s and 30’s songs with a horn and rhythm section, an acoustic archtop guitar and female vocalists which he put together with M.C. label owner Mark Carpentieri.
“It’s a little different for me,” said Robillard whose album features the vocals of such female luminaries as Sunny Crownover, Kelley Hunt, Elizabeth McGovern (yes, the Elizabeth McGovern of “Downton Abbey” fame), Maria Muldaur, Madeline Peyroux, and Catherine Russell. “But I love the music of that period and it’s going over really well.”
Robillard is also pumped about another album … one that keeping a little close to the vest: an album with some of the original members of Roomful of Blues.
“I knew we’d sound good but I was suprised at how good we sounded,” he said of the album which was recorded in Warren earlier this year. “We’ve sort of kept it a surprise but we’re really excited about it.”
Details – like the name, record label and release date – are still being kept under wraps, Robillard said, while the business details are being worked out.
“There’s a lot involved in the business end,” added Robillard, who also happens to be collector of vinyl records.
“I’ve got hundred and hundreds,” he said. “Blues, R&B, swing, jazz … I like old music and I’m very caught up in the idea of how music was originally recorded.”
Robillard, who scours antique stores for vintage vinyl recordings, said he listens to his records on modernized hi-fi equipment.
“I’ve got quite the reputation,” said the blues great with a laugh. “I’ve got people calling me now.”
Robillard and his band will take the stage at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday. Doors open at 7 p.m. for dinner. Tickets are $20 and available at knickmusic.com.
Meanwhile, over at Perks and Corks on High Street, another tradition will continue with another Westerly musician.
Marc Douglas Berardo, known as “a hardworking, fast-moving, adventure-seeking, keen observer who lives for the story and the song,” will perform his 10th annual New Year’s Eve concert with his orchestra beginning at 8 p.m. The annual New Year’s Eve show, Berardo said, will feature “a night of song, sing alongs and dancing with my musical orchestra: Dan Corbett, Josh White” and a special to-be-announced guest. Admission is free. For ticket information, visit perksandcorks.com
In Watch Hill, meanwhile, revelers can ring in the New Year at the “New Year’s Eve Gala: James Bond,” black-tie event at Ocean House ($185 per person) while sampling gourmet treats inspired by 007 himself and dancing to the music of a live band. At the other end of the shoreline, the Weekapaug Inn is hosting a festive event with the dinner and music for $125 per person.Visit oceanhouseevents. com for details and music.