Tales from the Tiki Lounge is Duke Robillard and Sunny Crownover's tribute to Les Paul & Mary Ford. Robillard, an accomplished veteran guitarist with a background in blues and swing, demonstrates that he knows his way around a Gibson Les Paul model guitar in the ways that Paul played and overdubbed it on his series of hit recordings with his then-wife, Ford, singing from the early '50s to the early ‘60s. Crownover, whose voice producer Robillard sometimes double-tracks or adds echo to in emulation of Paul's recording approach, has a warm tone consistent with Ford's. The selections include many of the Paul/Ford hits, including "Bye Bye Blues," "Just One More Chance," "Smoke Rings," and "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)," as well as songs Robillard has wisely selected that, while not actually recorded by Paul and Ford, can be performed in their style. These include "Occidental Woman," a song sung by Mae West in her 1936 movie Klondike Annie that sounds like it could have been written by Hoagy Carmichael on the same afternoon as "Hong Kong Blues" (it's actually by Gene Austin and predates the Carmichael composition by three years); "Put the Blame on Mame" (broken into two tracks with different verses and arrangements), the song lip-synced by Rita Hayworth (but actually sung by Anita Ellis) in the 1946 film noir Gilda; and "Crazy," Willie Nelson's song for Patsy Cline that became a hit in the early '60s. The selections thus predate and postdate the Paul/Ford era, but the music is all of a piece with it. The album title is slightly off-topic, but, despite Robillard's obvious affection for and appreciation of the music, there is an inescapably camp feel to it that helps it fit into the lounge/exotica style, especially given the frequent use of Latin rhythms including tango and rhumba. It's all in fun, of course, but Robillard effectively eulogizes Paul's guitar technique only a short time after his death.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann