There's a bittersweet beauty to the passing of time – the changes it brings are just as often heartbreaking as they are heartwarming. The inevitable tension that arises from that sway is Gretchen Peters' most trusted muse. “The years go by like days. Sometimes the days go by like years. And I don't know which one I hate the most,” she sings in “Arguing with Ghosts,” the hauntingly wistful opening cut on her new album, Dancing with the Beast.
Best known as the founder of Roomful of Blues and for his short stint with the Fabulous Thunderbirds (replacing Jimmie Vaughan), Duke Robillard had only released two blues albums between 1996 and 2002. Although he was awarded the W.C. Handy Best Blues Guitarist award for 2000 and 2001 and his tireless road work always included plenty of stinging solos, Robillard left the jazz and worldbeat tangents behind for this welcome return to his first love. Those who have followed Robillard's career know that he's never been tied to one style, and Living With the Blues highlights his eclectic talents. Robillard crackles on everything here, from the straight-ahead Chicago approach of Willie Dixon by way of Muddy Waters' "I Live the Life I Love" to the Roomful-styled hard swing of the obscure Willie Egans' "I'm Mad About You Baby" to the acoustic treatment of Tampa Red's "Hard Road" and the jump blues of his own "Sleepin' on It" (reprised from the Roomful years). He turns the Brownie McGhee title track into a tough Chicago shuffle, featuring the rollicking tenor sax of old Roomful alumnus Doug James, and closes with a bluesy rhumba-styled version of B.B. King's "Long Gone Baby." He also adds tough spunk to Little Milton's "If Walls Could Talk," throwing in one of the disc's greasiest solos along the way.