Big Pete Pearson and The Gamblers
Modesto Blues Records
BluesWax Rating: 8
Hot Ensemble Playing High-Quality Blues
Born in Jamaica, Big Pete Pearson has been a mainstay of the Phoenix, Arizona, blues scene for over fifty years. Now 75 years old, Pearson has released several justifiably lauded CDs in the last dozen years, one with his own band and the last two, produced by harmonica maven and impresario Bob Corritore, with a rotating cast of ace guest musicians. Three years after his last CD, this blues singer has reappeared with a new band and a self-produced album, and the wait was worth it.
First impression: Big Pete has lost none of the power and persuasiveness of his voice. Surprising for a singer with a gritty, raspy edge, he also commands a nice vocal range and can vary dynamics and volume to fit the needs of the song. The songs themselves, all but one of the ten penned by Big Pete, evoke the traditional blues tropes of hitting the road without destination, coping with hard times and injustice, and surviving rejection. Pearson also has an endearing and humorously lascivious proclivity, as manifested even in his song titles. Past albums featured “Big Leg Woman,” “My Baby Is a Jockey,” and “She’s Hot, She’s Fine.” This album gives us “Mini Skirt” and “Slippery When Wet.” The double entendres are amusing but still suitable for prime-time radio play.
The songs themselves are mostly mid-tempo, with a couple of shuffles, a couple of contemplative, after-hours plaints, and even one up-tempo workout (“Mini Skirt”). There’s not a lot of variety, but that’s no complaint when every song has an infectious hook and compelling groove.
Where this album most excels is with the band. As Butch Cassidy asked (or was it Sundance?), where did these guys come from? Italy, I’d guess, judging by their names: Gabriele Dellepiane on bass and Marco Fuliano on drums provide a granitic grounding throughout. Henry Carpaneto on piano is consistently inventive, with a sparkling touch, and Guitar Ray Scona on guitar (did you guess?) displays huge technical skill without stealing the spotlight — and does a credible singing stint on “The Love You Don’t Have”. In cohesion with Big Pete, this band is one hot ensemble playing high-quality blues.
Keep on bringin’ it, Big Pete! We like it!
Steve Daniels is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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