- Pinetop Perkins and Friends
- Pinetop Perkins
- Stoneagle Music
Joe Willie Perkins has seen a lot. Due to turn 95 years old in July 2008, Perkins has played with itinerant iconic comrades Robert Nighthawk, Sonny Boy Williamson (II), and Robert Lockwood Jr., held the piano chair in Muddy Waters’s band for over 10 years, played with the Legendary Blues Band, been a valued session man on innumerable records, and continues to tour to this day! Along the way he has made a lot of friends, and many join him on this album, to the mutual benefit of all involved.
Every cut on the album features Pinetop’s piano stylings and vocals. A sprightly “Take It Easy Baby” opens the set, with Jimmie Vaughan’s lead guitar prominent and crackling, as it is on several other numbers. A tip of the hat to Muddy follows with “Got My Mojo Working”; Perkins’s singing lacks the power and range of Muddy’s, but pleases with its unpretentious joie de vivre. B.B. King with his instantly identifiable 6-string style then joins Pinetop for “Down in Mississippi,” as they sing the praises of their respective home towns of Indianola and Belzoni, Mississippi.
A medley of “How Long Blues/Come Back Baby” slows down the tempo, with Eric Clapton bending the strings in his own inimitable way, and with the stellar vocal collaboration of Nora Jean Bruso (name misspelled on the liner notes), whose backup support on other cuts is tastefully appropriate.
Why would Pinetop – or anyone, for that matter? – then cover “Hoochie Coochie Man”? Didn’t Muddy claim permanent ownership of Willie Dixon’s macho classic?
Well, Pinetop’s version replaces Muddy’s swagger, braggadocio, and sexual menace with a lilting bluesy canter that has an appeal of its own, and the slower tempo provides variety before covers of “Barefootin’” and “Look Over Yonders Wall” pick it up again. A mighty fine version of “Anna Lee,” a tune penned by Robert Nighthawk and made famous by Elmore James, then leads to the Robert Johnson classic “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Pinetop’s piano prowess isn’t what it was 20 or 50 years ago…but it’s still top quality, as displayed in the last cut of the album, “Bad Luck Baby.” With his years of experience in the blues and in the vicissitudes of life, Perkins’s playing easily makes up in feeling what it lacks in dazzle. Young guitar slingers take note: often less is more.
There are no horns or harmonica on this album of unvarnished Chicago blues, but they aren’t missed. The musicianship is impeccable throughout. Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Willie Kent on drums, Bob Stroger on bass, and Eric Sardinas on slide guitar are some of the other friends that contribute to excellent effect. Pinetop appears in the liner photos in an all-white suit, looking dapper and pleased. He should be proud. This is a high quality blues album. May he live another 95 years!