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February 2007

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Big Pete Pearson
I'm Here Baby
Blue Witch Records

Big Pete Pearson

Big Pete Pearson has retired from the music business several times. But the Phoenix, Arizona blues legend keeps coming back ... and he sounds better every time.

The 70-year-old Pearson is finally releasing his first nationally-distributed album with I'm Here Baby (Blue Witch Records). It's long overdue. For those of you hearing Pearson for the first time, you'll be wondering why this guy hasn't gotten more acclaim in his 50+ year music career.

An all-star cast joins Pearson on I'm Here Baby, including his cousin and Alligator recording artist W.C. Clark, plus Ike Turner, Kid Ramos, Johnny Dyer, Joey DeFrancesco, the late Chico Chism, and more. But there's no doubting that Pearson is the star of this show.

Pearson vocal style falls into the blues shouter genre. While his voice isn't as powerful as it used to be, it's aged well and Big Pete still packs a wallop into every line.

I'm Here Baby begins with a rollicking reworking of the classic blues shuffle, "Too Many Drivers," that features strong harmonica accompaniment by CD producer Bob Corritore. The whole band gets to shine on the slow blues "Tin Pan Alley," with nice guitar work from both Chris James and Johnny Rapp, tasteful piano from Clay Swafford and more good harp playing from Corritore, this time using the chromatic.

Pearson then demonstrates his songwriting ability with the next four songs, all originals, with the strongest being the ribald and funky "Big Leg Woman." This cut is also marks the first of two appearances by Hammond B-3 master DeFrancesco, and he instantly shows with a couple of searing solos why he is one of the best on the instrument in the jazz world.

I've always felt that Pearson was at his best on a slow, sultry blues. The top shelf number here is "The Highway Is Like A Woman," with a classic blues line, "... the highway is like a woman, real soft shoulders and dangerous curves ...that highway may get a little bit slick and wet, and those curves can take you out of this world ..." The legendary and sometimes infamous Ike Turner makes an appearance on guitar here, throwing down some dirty licks, while DeFrancesco is back on the B-3. Again, this man is absolutely incredible on the organ. I'd love to see Pearson, Turner and DeFrancesco on stage together --- that would be a killer combination! The session from which "Big Leg Woman" and "The Highway Is Like A Woman" originated must have been a hot night at Clarke Rigsby's Tempest Recording studio.

Clark joins Pearson for a duet on the mid-tempo shuffle, "Pete & W.C.'s Blues Medley." Their voices compliment each other extremely well as they throw standard blues verses back and forth at each other for three and a half minutes.

"Natural Ball" has more of a downhome, back porch feel to it, primarily due to the Rapp's great mandolin work. Pearson again gets down and dirty on the risqué "My Baby Is A Jockey" ("... my baby's a jockey, rides me night and day ..."), giving his voice more of a raw, raspy sound. The band must have had a great time recording this one, because the energy comes blasting right out of the speakers at you.

The disc ends with Big Pete and W.C. reminiscing about their time growing up in Texas, swapping stories over a bed of music, on "Texas Blues Memories." You can't really dance to it, but it's a priceless piece of blues folklore.

There just aren't enough true blues CDs like Big Pete Pearson's I'm Here Baby being made today. Cherish this one.

--- Bill Mitchell

(You can read more about Big Pete Pearson at


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