Doing all the work for my trip to Ireland with my brother is well worth the trouble.
And not only because the poor boy will miss every major Irish tourist attraction as I mercilessly drag him through the rural West, in search of traditional music, spoken Irish, Grace O'Malley and WB Yeats.
What makes it a pleasure to plan a trip for my brother is the little surprise I found tucked inside the envelope in which he forwarded me the maps and B&B guides.
An autographed copy of the new CD by Duke Robillard: Guitar Groove-a-rama.
I've hardly surfaced since I popped the CD in the player Friday afternoon. It has been, quite frankly, a Groove-a-rama weekend.
If you don't know Duke Robillard, check out a few Groove-a-rama tracks here or here, and read about the man here. (May I recommend you taste: "Cooking", the tune he used to open sets with back in my Duke following days, "No Way Out", the funkiest "Danny Boy" you are likely to (ever) hear, and "Blues a Rama", an incredible 16 minute one-take tribute, guitarist by guitarist to the players and styles that influenced a young Robillard. It's an amazing cut.)
Duke is the soundtrack of my 20s. I first heard him in the early 80s at the Last Call Saloon, a fabulously small basement bar in what was then an out of the way neighborhood in downtown Providence. My cronies and I had wandered in to the Last Call, famous for closing late, just to get a few extra hours in after the dance clubs closed. Within weeks we'd given up dance clubs for the blues.
I have a few Duke CDs, but I've always felt like he lost something on them. He was just one of those musicians I'd have said you had to catch live.
Til I heard Groove-a-rama.
I feel like I just spent an evening sitting around the man's living room, listening to him pick up one guitar after another, showing me what each can do. This is an intimate, cozy CD, the work of a man celebrating a lifetime he's had a hell of a good time with.
What do I miss today? It's a repeat; I know I've said this more than once here. Today I miss swaying with a crowd, tapping my rings on a bottle of beer in a tiny blues bar.