Music Reviews
Pinetop Perkins

Pinetop Perkins

Live at Antones Vol. 1/Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie

New West Records

Pinetop Perkins played piano for Muddy Waters for ten years, and really that’s all the CV you need. If you were able to hang with Muddy it proves you can flat-out play the blues, and Perkins surely could do that. He began playing with Robert Nighthawk and Earl Hooker in ’50s, and in 2008 he become the oldest Grammy winner at 97 for his album Joined at the Hip. Not too shabby.

So kudos are due to New West for releasing two of Pinetop’s greatest sides he cut for Antone’s Records in the ’90s. He sounded as fresh and ferocious as he did starting out, and it’s a godsend for blues fans that these essential recordings will see the light of day again. Live at Antones Vol. 1, recorded in 1995, finds Perkins with an all-star collection of players including fellow Water’s alums Calvin Jones on bass and drummer Willie Smith, Kim Wilson from the Fabulous Thunderbirds on harp, and journeyman guitarist Rusty Zinn. They burn through 13 cuts including “Got My Mojo Working”, “Caldonia” and of course “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”. The harp of Wilson is particularly sharp, answering Pinetops vocal and right-hand runs with ease and aplomb.

Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie, originally released in 1992, finds Perkins again surrounded by aces, including Kim Wilson and James Cotton on harp, Duke Robillard and Preston Hubbard from Roomful of Blues on some cuts, while powerhouses Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Jimmy Rogers (another Muddy veteran) or Hubert Sumlin on guitars sound perfect. Cuts such as “High Heel Sneakers” or Leroy Carr’s lament “How Long Blues” are as good as you’ve ever heard them, and it’s Pinetop Perkins barrelhouse piano that ties it all together. It was a sad day in 2011 when Perkins passed away, but not before he gave the world a lifetime of blues magic, two records of which are available again. Get ‘em if you got ears for the blues, because as Muddy was fond of saying: “Now that boy could play!”

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