Big Pete Pearson,
I'm Here Baby
(Blue Witch, 2007)

You don't think of Phoenix, Ariz., as a home to blues singers, but Big Pete Pearson has lived and worked there for many years, though he was born in Jamaica in 1936 and grew up in Texas. This is his second album -- the first, unheard by me, was issued in 2001 -- but he has been singing the blues for half a century.

I'm Here Baby sounds a whole lot more like blues albums sounded in the 1960s than anything current, when the influence of hill-country Mississippi's raw and short riffs is in the ascendancy and much electric-blues performance looks to rural models. Unlike these, Pearson's approach is an unequivocally urban one, shaped by the influences of Albert King, T-Bone Walker and their like. Though he himself plays no instrument beyond his voice, he surrounds himself with a first-rate band of hard-driving pickers and pounders, including veteran guitarists and old associates W.C. Clark and Ike Turner on a couple of cuts, if not the same ones.

A fierce, growling, soulful vocalist, Pearson throws himself heart-first into his material, covering standards such as "Tin Pan Alley," "Big Leg Woman" and more. If he is not an original, he demonstrates how much power a skilled, well-traveled journeyman can bring to a music that, delivered right, never wears out its welcome and or speaks less than truthfully to life's hard-earned lessons.

review by
Jerome Clark

29 December 2007

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