Guitar Revelation

Duke Robillard is genius on the six strings, but this Boz Scaggs character can eat Buddys shorts

If you're a guitar player and you've checked out celebrity instructional videos for lameasses like me, you know how frustrating they can be (if you're not a guitar player, skip to the next paragraph). For example, I distinctly remember wanting to clobber jazz hotshot Joe Pass after renting his tape, even though I own an Epiphone Joe Pass guitar that I could never play like Joe Pass. On this video, Pass goes hoodley-hoodley-hoodley-hoodley, peeling off these mind-blowing hyperspeed riffs I could never cop in my wildest dreams, and concludes, "Do it like that," as if I'm supposed to go, "Oh, okay, Joe. I see now" and follow suit. Ain't gonna happen, and you know it, ya showoff azzole.

And so my favorite thing about DUKE ROBILLARD is his instructional video, which actually works. He slowed his playing down and talked to me with the kind of sweet patience reserved for getting through to a retarded person, which I am, and I was actually able to pick up a few of his licks, thereby enriching my life immeasurably because the guy can really play. Thanks, Duke. As a token of my appreciation, I am now going to recommend that everyone go check out Sir Duke Monday night at the Sun Theatre, even though he's opening for BOZ SCAGGS, who is more boring than a football team of Geraldos.

Robillard is among the most talented and versatile guitar slingers on the scene, dividing his time between jazz swing and blues of every stripe, from T-Bone Walker slick to Wolfman Washington fonky. Robillard started out (and is probably most closely associated) with New England's jumpin,' horn-blaring powerhouse Roomful of Blues; he replaced Jimmie Vaughan for a few years in the Fabulous Thunderbirds and has been releasing solo albums since the late '80s.

I've been particularly enamored of his swing efforts, which predictably never netted any juice when the neo-swing revival happened, as Robillard failed to don a zoot suit and act like a clown. I don't know what sort of stuff Duke will be serving up at the Sun; this is to be a solo set, which makes it all the more intriguing. Listening to this guy play guitar all by his lonesome for an hour or so should be a revelation to anyone enamored by the possibilities offered by six strings in the hands of a master.

As for Boz—well, he has been trying to re-up his own blues cred for several years now, but the boy's about as exciting as a low-fat Pop-Tart, let's face it. T'weren't always thus: he did some fine work early in his career as sideman to Steve Miller (in the days before Miller turned into a Top 40 bag of shit), and his first solo album—featuring the sublime Duane Allman—was a keeper, if not quite the classic critics of the day made it out to be. Then Boz sold out just like his former boss man and unleashed a heap o' disco crap like "Lido Shuffle" and "Lowdown" on a hapless world before disappearing for about a decade. Boz resurfaced 10 years ago or so as a born-again blues guy, but I've never bought into the notion of this inveterate yuppie as Mr. R&B; he merely sings semipassable soul for a white guy and wears nice suits.

Nor do I buy into the notion of WAYNE "THE TRAIN" HANCOCK as the second coming of Hank Williams, although I do buy into him as the first coming of Wayne "The Train" Hancock, Hank Williams imitator par excellence. When I first heard this guy, he was like the first live human in that mainstream country graveyard of Garth Brooks & Dunn. But then he released his second album and his third and his fourth, and it became apparent that this guy has only one trick, even if it's a damned good trick.

Like just about every performer in alt.-country, Hancock is really more parrot than songbird (the Derailers and BR-549 as Buck; Dale Watson as Merle; Hancock, Johnny Dilks and Hank III as Hank I). Where I once figured Hancock showed the promise of outgrowing his Hankish pretensions, it's now apparent that that ain't happening. That's okay, because Hancock is great as far as mimics go—-writes some good if derivative songs, hires really fantastic bands to back him up—but it doesn't look like he's gonna become the Major Figure I once predicted he'd be: he's far too comfortable paying tribute to his hero.

That's not to say that spending a night listening to Hancock croon away in a smelly honky-tonk over a dozen beers or so is a bad idea; just don't be suckered into taking the whole thing too seriously, is all I'm saying (reserve seriousness for Chris Gaffney, who is the first, second and third coming of Chris Gaffney). Hancock heats up the Doll Hut on Friday night; with only a $7 cover charge, you can hardly go wrong.

Boz Scaggs and Duke Robillard play at the Sun Theatre, 2200 E. Katella, Anaheim, (714) 740-2000. Mon., 8:30 p.m. $45. All ages; Wayne "The Train" Hancock performs at the Doll Hut, 107 Adams, Anaheim, (714) 533-1286. Sat., 9 p.m. $7. 21+.
 
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