Ernie Peniston – These Blues
AJ Records – 2021
8 tracks; 33 minutes
Ernie Peniston fronted the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings for four years and in Minneapolis played with drummer Morris Day whose subsequent band The Time went on to record with Prince on Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge. Ernie is now back in his native Iowa and performs locally. This CD features his smooth vocals on a set of generally upbeat and funky/soul material. Ernie is backed by Rick Penhallegon on drums, Darren Butler on bass, David Sulzberger on keys and either Craig Stubbins or Ed Finn on guitar; Delene McConnaha adds backing vocals while Ernie sings lead throughout and produced the album himself, as well as writing six of the eight songs.
The album opener deals explicitly with racism as Ernie asks “What Did I Do?” to make the other person look oddly at him though now an older and wiser man, Ernie realizes that he does not have to take those attitudes, it is for others to learn to accept the color of his skin. Johnny Copeland’s “Love Utopia” is next up with some rocking piano and good guitar accents on what is perhaps the most uptempo outing of the set and is remarkably hard to sit still to! “I Want You” has some slinky rhythms that suit the gently lascivious lyrics: “Don’t want to fall in love, just want to have some fun; waste no time, baby, get it done”. The impressive title cut explains the life of the bluesman pretty convincingly – little money, lots of travel away from loved ones – but the blues keeps calling him to another gig. The song is beautifully played to a gentle tune with some striking guitar work from Ed Finn.
Ernie realizes that keeping “Old Letters” may be an error, especially when his lady finds them. It’s a slower tune with a definite blues feel, courtesy of the guitar supported by the organ work. The uptempo “You Can’t Do That No More” addresses the ups and downs of relationships, moving from romantic harmony to complete breakdown within the space of a week! More solid guitar work and a deserved feature for keyboards man David. “Love’s Got A Hold On Me” bounces along with bright guitar fills before the final track, “Meat On The Bone”, credited to ‘Manuel Crutcher’ but actually it’s a song by Bettye Crutcher and Bobby Manuel that first appeared on a 1970’s Stax release by Little Sonny. The track makes a good, upbeat finale as it pays tribute to fuller-figured ladies.
This is a solid album of soulful blues, well played and always entertaining, albeit a little short in length by modern CD standards.