Bernie Pearl – Just The Blues Music
Bee Bump Music – 2022
14 tracks; 57 minutes
When Bernie Pearl’s wife suggested that he should produce an all instrumental album suitable for long car drives it made Bernie reflect on some of his previous recordings. Between albums made in the 90’s with Papa John Creach and Harvey ‘Harmonica Fats’ Blackston and two of his own band albums from this century, Bernie found enough instrumentals to form a new album. What we have here is both a retrospective of Bernie’s band and collaborations with older bluesmen but also an historical document, worthy of our attention.
The Bernie Pearl band is Bernie on rhythm, slide and acoustic guitars, Terry de Rouen on lead guitar, Hollis Gilmore on tenor sax, Mike Barry on bass and Albert Trepagnier Jr. on drums; piano is either Leon Blue or Dwayne Smith and, of course, Papa John Creach plays violin and Harmonica Fats harp on some of the tunes. The oldest material comes from an album entitled I Had To Get Nasty, made in 1991 with Harmonica Fats; seeing Bernie sell copies from the bandstand, Papa John’s wife saw that that was what her husband needed and Papa Blues followed in 1992, the violinist’s first album under his own name (though Classic Rock fans will recall his contributions to albums by Jefferson Airplane/Starship in the 70’s). The remaining cuts are drawn from Bernie’s albums Somebody Got To Do It! (2006) and Take Your Time (2013). Bernie wrote eight of the tunes, Fats three, Papa one and there are two tunes classed as traditional.
We start with the relaxed rhythms of “Sweet Life Blues”, the band soon joined by Papa’s distinctive violin and space for everyone to take a short solo. Next up Fats introduces the band on “Boogie All The Way” before Bernie pays tribute to one of the greats on “Blues For Lightnin’”, a guitar piece recorded live. “Scufflin’” is great, Papa back on his violin over a riff that sounds rather like Miles Davis’ “So What”, pianist Dwayne Smith featuring strongly. Bernie states in the sleeve notes that “Mississippi Raga” is his interpretation of an obscure Mississippi Fred McDowell tune and the well executed, stately slide work does indeed have an Eastern flavor.
“Low Desert” is a slow grinder written by Fats whose harp is well featured. The band ups the pace for “Slidin’ Defender”, again with Fats on harp and, as the title suggests, plenty of Bernie’s slide. “Baby Please Don’t Go” is the vehicle for Bernie and Papa to trade riffs around the classic traditional tune, both having great fun for over six minutes, supported just by sparse piano and bass. “Papa’s Blues” was concocted to fill a need for a slow blues tune for the album and Papa swoops elegantly over the band, playing beautifully. “Train To Memphis” rockets along, making a good contrast with the previous cut: Papa’s violin is again on board as the band finds a few soul riffs for saxman Hollis to enjoy and for Terry to show us his Steve Cropper licks – good fun!
“10.00 AM Blues” is a light, jazzy piece with Bernie limbering up for the day’s recordings, accompanied just by Mike’s bass. Fats makes his final appearance, blowing a storm on a country blues shuffle appropriately entitled “Harmonica Fats Blows” before two shorter numbers featuring Bernie: “California Hustle” was intended to be a finger-picking exercise but the rhythm section picked up the pace and made Bernie hustle, hence the title; the traditional “I’ll Fly Away” is played solo to close the album.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable album looking back at Bernie’s earlier albums and his two guests. The playing is exemplary throughout and sound quality excellent; it is also good that the running order of the album varies the pace and styles, rather than adopting a chronological approach.