Big Pete Pearson

I'm Here Baby
(Blue Witch Records)

Born in 1936 in Jamaica, raised in Texas, and based in Phoenix, Big Pete Pearson is proof that the blues (as a flourishing, vibrant form) is not dying of old age and House of Blues-bred respectability. Likely among the last of the breed of Chicago-style bluesmen, Pearson has a burly, somewhat raspy, heartfelt bellow of a voice in the vein of late icons Muddy Waters and Junior Wells. His songs are usual 12-bar rants about big-legged women, romantic discord, partying, fealty, and man's eternal quest for His Baby (as in, "gotta fahnd mah BABY") — but another thing Big Pete corroborates: 'tain't what you say, but the way you say it. Pearson breathes fire (and a bit of drollness) into routine subject matter, while his accompanists stoke the flames with urgent, terse string-bending by Johnny Rapp and Chris James (plus guests Kid Ramos and Ike Turner), cracking drums, and the Promethean harmonica of Bob Corritore. The production (also by Corritore) is spare and straightforward, foregoing the slickness that neuters so much contemporary electric blues. (Jazz organist Joey De Francesco makes a couple o' appearances, adding touches of uptown suavity, by the way.) Anytime you play I'm Here Baby, it'll feel like after midnight on a Saturday.

 
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