“I got ramblin’, ramblin’ all on my mind,” sings the conventional yet satisfying voice of Lorraine Caron, sporting a brimmed top hat. Pianist Tom Duffield does more than accompany her; he strokes the keys with soulful fervor in a tribute to the legendary bluesman, Robert Leroy Johnson.
The Duffield and Caron Project would be just another local blues duo, but the harmony between the piano and the soul that conducts it arouses snaps, foot taps, and a sass that only the “boogie-woogie blues” can summon.
Old Dog Tavern, a quaint, eccentric bar, appeals to the mellow music that it hosts. The duo performs every Saturday evening at five, and on Tuesday nights, Duffield flies solo.
The venue, decked out in its eclectic decorations (moose heads and vintage whisky bottles), and its relaxed serving staff make it an appealing scene for a range of all ages (--especially those over 21, with their $3 Captains and $5 Wine Saturday specials).
The band kicks off the evening with a sultry classic, B.B. King’s “Since I Met You Baby.” As the show goes on, the pair covers a medley of blues, jazz, and traditional classics and dabbles in a few of their own originals.
Tributes are well chosen fan favorites, the crowd intermittently whistles along, but the monotone and occasional twang of Caron’s voice tends to muffle the melancholic vibrations of the blues. With a decent range, she keeps the night safe and light-hearted.
Regulars love her; she waves and sends compliments their way during show, which doesn’t really work when covering Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry.”
Caron is a perfect host and full of compassion, but blues is no place for flattery. The anchor of the night was Duffield. Wherever Caron’s voice does not quite hit the spot, he makes up for with a funky trill or with a resonating arpeggio. As Caron stays in the same pitch, Duffield makes it a thing to crescendo con brio through an array of scales.
After a quick interview during intermission, Duffield comments that he “likes to share the feeling with the crowd.” From white-haired blues veterans in sweater vests and walking canes to college-students in plaid button downs and wool scarves, the “feeling” is relived and passed on.
Duffield, as his fingers glide upscale across the piano keys to expose each octave in one stroke, captures the very essence of the blues, with one hand. Single-handedly.