Hitting the 88s at 97
Reviewed October 2010
Joined at the Hip
By Pinetop Perkins & Willie "Big Eyes" Smith
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Not every blues disc offers a chance to hear a legend, but "Joined at the Hip" does. Still going strong at age 97, blues pianist Pinetop Perkins teams up here with singer/harp player Willie "Big Eyes" Smith to play a session of Chicago blues. Both are veterans of the blues scene as far back as the '50s, including playing together for a while in Muddy Waters' band.
Pinetop hasn't lost his musical fastball, and the dozen songs here feature a crack blues crew, with Smith's son Kenny on drums, Bob Stroger on bass, and two good guitarists, John Primer and "Little Frank" Krakowki. Perkins has played since the late '20s, the vast majority of the time as a side man, but he doesn't disappear into the woodwork here. His piano is the rhythm instrument on "Cut That Out," even as he adds fills and plays a lively solo. "Gambling Blues" shows Perkins in a supporting role as Smith steps up front with the harp for a rumbling romp.
Smith sings most of the songs, which are a blend of standards and some well-written (by Smith) boogies and ballads. Smith is a good, if not overpowering, blues singer.
Ol' Pinetop can sing, too, though, and not badly, as he shows on "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" and "Grindin' Man." His take on the Tommy Dorsey-penned former is that of a musical soul who has heard and seen it all, can play it in his sleep, but still infuses it with deep feeling.
Big Bill Broonzy's "I Feel So Good" is the kind of slick shuffle that this gang of smooth pros tosses off so well that the listener forgets the singer is 74, and his pianist old enough to be his dad. "Eyesight to the Blind" wraps the disc with some more solid piano by Perkins.
There are plenty of blues bands out there playing this style of music, but very few have this type of personnel, and fewer still play this well. "Joined at the Hip" is a winner.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.