How many compact discs has Pinetop Perkins released in the last 10 years? Pinetop himself probably doesn’t know the answer to that question, and in a way, it doesn’t really matter. He’s been recording basically the same disc with a different backing band each time out for the last decade.
Pinetop hasn’t had his own regular band since leaving the Legendary Blues Band. He usually plays with a local pick-up group in whatever town he happens to be playing on a given night, so it’s pointless to work up any new arrangements or material. These local bands usually initiate Pinetop’s recording sessions these days — Pinetop gets a nice paycheck for sitting in a studio and running through his standard on-stage set list, and the band gets to release their own souvenir of having recorded with a genuine blues legend who once accompanied Muddy, Sonny Boy, etc.
Ultimately, the quality of these releases is determined by whether the band that booked him into a studio while he was passing through their town has done its homework. Thanks largely to Pinetop’s professionalism and good-natured adaptability, the results are usually no worse than mediocre and sometimes even offer brief moments of transcendence.
Unfortunately there aren’t many of those transcendent moments on either one of these discs. On 10 of the 14 songs on Solitaire, Pinetop is backed by a small band of bass, drums and harmonica, which in theory should leave plenty of room for Pinetop’s piano. In fact, that space is too often taken up by the rudimentary huffing and puffing of the harp player.
Pinetop sounds rather uninvolved with the proceedings, and in general the backing is heavy-handed and not particularly sympathetic to his easy-rolling fluidity. The most effective songs are “Keep On Drinking” and “Grinder Man,” both of which feature an unobtrusive guitarist added to the mix. Enjoyment of this set is also marred by a couple of technical irritations: several songs abruptly fade in “already in progress” or have endings that sound like quick and sloppy edits. Also, Pinetop’s vocals apparently were recorded without a wind screen on the mic. The result is a fair amount of distortion and popping as he sings and occasionally spits into it. (by Scott Dirks)
David Collins (drums)
Dave Copenhaver (bass)
Pinetop Perkins (vocals, piano)
David Short (harmonica)
Doc Blue (harmonica on 14.)
Benny Garcia (guitar on 11.)
Benny Garcia, Jr., (guitar on 02., 08. + 14.)
01. P. G. Shuffle (Perkins/Copenhaver/Collins/Short) 3.46
02. Yonder’s Wall (James) 3.20
03. Some Day Baby (Davis) 4.37
04. Chicken Shack (Smith/Perkins) 3.49
05. Blues For Olivia (Perkins/Copenhaver/Collins/Short) 2.41
06. Love My Woman (Perkins) 6.07
07. Just A Little Bit (Gordon) 5.31
08. Big Fat Mama (Rogers/Perkins) 4.20
09. Pine’s Blues (Perkins/Copenhaver/Collins/Short) 4.13
10. Kansas City (Leiber/Stoller) 3.45
11. Keep On Drinkin’ (Perkins) 3.26
12. High Heel Sneakers (Higginbottom) 3.58
13. Take It Easy Baby (Nighthawk) 3.36
14. The Grinder Man (Perkins) 6.31
* (coming soon)