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DUCK BAKER - Les Blues Du Richmond: Demos & Outtakes 1973-1979 

DUCK BAKER - Les Blues Du Richmond: Demos & Outtakes 1973-1979 
Tomkins Square TSQ5500 

Duck Baker is a guitarist who I first encountered when he played the Cumbrian folk clubs (primarily the Lakes FC) as part of Stefan Grossman’s Kicking Mule Roadshows, along with SG himself and Dave Evans. This would be in the late 1970s, and the last eight of the 14 tracks here date from this period. The previous six tracks were earlier demos that have recently been digitised. The ragtime tracks transport me straight back to those heady days. The opener, Maple Leaf Rag, in particular, is an arrangement that I endeavoured to mimic subsequently after watching him. Jelly Roll Morton’s Wolverine Blues is another early gem.

Of the Kicking Mule period tracks, highlights for me are The Humours Of Whiskey and Sandy River Belle, but all eight are well worth a punt. The earlier Homage To Leadbelly could have been subtitled Homage to Django/Jansch as he demonstrates multiple influences within it. The Cajun-derived title track is also an outstanding inclusion. The vocal deliveries on Charleston Mad-Charleston, That Rhythym Man and Doing The Raccoon remind me of why Duck is primarily a solo guitarist, and this is his real forte.

This is an ideal microcosm of Duck Baker’s early work, and serves as a reminder of what vim and vigour he brought to his craft in the early days. Today, Duck Baker is still producing great work, but this is worth a listen, especially for those of us who witnessed him in those historic early days.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.