A gifted guitarist and songwriter with dozens of albums to his credit (first as founder of Roomful of Blues, then as a solo act), Duke Robillard remains an underappreciated artist. As "Explorer" suggests, his aptitude for blues, jazz and rock-edged material is overdue for respect and recognition.
Robillard's recent CDs have traded in swinging, '50s-era blues, and fans of those records will appreciate the similarly peppy "Jumpin' With Duke." But "Explorer" is largely a grittier affair, with "Misunderstanding Blues" and "Soulful" ringing particularly tough. Tasty sax lines make "Just Between Me and You" take on a hint of soul, and some spicy horn work raises the specter of funk in "Male Magnet."
As a change of pace, Robillard delves into country blues and jazzy, smoldering balladry. He may not be a household name, but "Explorer" testifies to his enduring grace and flair.