Review by Dave Glackin
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Number: APO 5 rpm LP (APO 002)
Talk about the guy who put the "boogie" in "boogie
woogie." At age 87, Pinetop Perkins proved that he still could bring down the house, at Chad Kassem's third annual "Blues Masters at the Crossroads" festival in Salina, Kansas, in October,
2000 (see show report by clicking here). That seminal event is covered elsewhere in this publication in my article entitled
"Livin' With The Blues in Salina." What a piano player!
Pinetop was the oldest blues musician at the festival, but certainly not the least lively. He appeared on stage resplendent in a shiny reddish-purple striped suit, a red hat, and a piano-keyboard tie. He was classy and understated, with a kindly stage presence. Letting the crowd know that "Well, I am the blues, I tell ya," Pinetop just rolled off the blues, very calmly and unassumedly even during the big burners. This blues master received three standing ovations from a very happy crowd.
Chad has hit the nail on the head with this recording. The piano's keyboard is imaged clear as a bell within the soundstage, and Pinetop's rollicking, rolling boogie woogie style isn't exactly hidden in the mix. Pinetop's voice is right there in my listening room, with all of its inflections and commanding tone. And it sounds like he's singing just for you. And the electric guitar accompaniment is also uncannily reproduced. I was in the front row for the concert, locking eyes with Pinetop more than once, and can attest that this fellow has audience rapport. This recording, done in the same space but without the audience, is an eerie recreation of that event. I can close my eyes and be instantly transported back to that cathedral in Salina. This is quite spooky. The man really heats up the ivories on some of these cuts, especially "Down in Mississippi," when he sounds like a heretofore unrecognized new force of nature.
Pinetop wasn't born to the piano. He dropped out of school in the fourth grade to drive a mule. He was apparently quite good at this, and it helped to support his family. He later drove a tractor on a government farm, which gave him special dispensation from serving in the Army. He actually started out as a guitarist. Out on the grounds of Blue Heaven Studios, he noted that "My mother got me started smoking when I was nine. Now I'm 87, and I'm still doing it." It doesn't seem to have affected his voice one iota.
Later, Pinetop went to work rebuilding pianos, which led to playing pianos, starting in the forties. He ultimately spent 11 years playing with Muddy Waters, as well as Sonny Boy Williamson #2,
B.B. King and "all the greats."
I am privileged to have been able to spend some time in Salina talking to Pinetop, and I wish him many more years of making great music. He deserves it.
Just buy this record. It's not to be missed.
Sound Quality: 100