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Big Pete Pearson

Most cities seem to boast at least one authentic bluesman, who commands the attention of fans and his fellow musicians alike. In Phoenix, that official ambassador of the blues has for many years been the formerly Texas-based singer Big Pete Pearson. Apparently, he has been performing for more than a half-century, but a listen to this album--Pearson's first attempt at taking his act nationwide--makes me wonder why anyone would consider Pearson more than an also-ran.

Pearson's strained bark lacks the growling presence of many of his contemporaries and influences, and neither does he have a soul-smooth voice. His songs--whether up-tempo 12-bar progressions, country honks or smoldering, slow blues--rehash a skillet of ain't-I-got-trouble blues tropes with alarming tedium. He sings about having sex with women, leaving women, about women leaving him, about men stealing his women.

Tired metaphors abound--witness "Too Many Drivers," "My Baby Is a Jockey," "Possum Up a Tree" and the uninspired "The Highway Is Like a Woman," in which the convoluted analogy annoyingly roams past the limits of plausibility. He actually ends that song by comparing the object of his affections to a meal at KFC: "Everybody knows that you're finger-lickin' good." Sheesh.

That said, the music on this disc is killer, including guest appearances from Ike Turner and Kid Ramos on guitar, Joey DeFrancesco on B-3 organ and guitarist-singer W.C. Clark, as well as the Rhythm Room All-Stars, which includes harmonica player and producer Bob Corritore. It's a shame, though, that the front man sounds like a parody of a blues singer.

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