Just Duquette This Time

Playful solo work from half of Cactus Highway
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  March 20, 2013

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There's good audience in good kids' music, so it's hard to fault Rob Duquette for getting a kids' album, Love Is Contagious, out before Christmas and for working as a music educator as well as a working club musician. In fact, the best thing about his kid-oriented work is that it's not always obviously kids' music.

As if to prove it, the title track from the kids' album (his marketing spin) is also here on This Time, a seven-song release under the name Duquette, his first solo release and first release as a frontman since Cactus Highway's Nothing Pure in 2004. Like just about everything on the album, it's got a "world" feel, with a salsa vibe and active flugelhorn from Rick Marsters. It's a fun song. And danceable. My kids like it. We listened to it over a rousing game of Memory. (I crushed them.)

The repeating chorus is pretty catchy: "When you give somebody love/They want to give somebody else love." But, you know, the ironic among you will not be pleased. My taste buds rebelled. Too sweet. The aftertaste alone poisons his "Roxanne" cover. Thankfully, he doesn't try to do it like Sting — it's a bluesy kind of thing until the chorus, where it hits feel-good reggae — but I'm not sure the arrangement takes the song's subject matter seriously enough (and I know that sounds remarkably prudish), even if the bass and guitar are both engagingly played.

"Memphis" is an interesting mix of reggae and classic rock guitar, with a chorus that's classic alt-country and a bridge full of horns from Mark Damon. As for the lyrics, they're direct: "You are my only real friend/that is the only thing I know." "YouTube" is more purely pop, especially in the chorus, and serves as cautionary tale: "They asked me if I would get on stage and move . . ." At least he can be put here in the same sentence as Jeff Tweedy, who expressed similar concerns the last time he played the State Theatre as a solo act, opening wondering if his fly was down.

Duquette's not as goofy as other bands who trend kid-style, like They Might Be Giants, or silly at all on this release, but he's lighthearted even when tackling serious subjects. Context might matter here. Sunshine and a pint sure would be helpful. ^

THIS TIME | Released by Duquette | with the Highball Trio | at the Dogfish Bar and Grille, in Portland | March 22 | with Andrea Wollstadt | at McArthur Library, in Biddeford | March 24 | robduquette.com

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