Music

Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith: Joined at the Hip

Between them they're 169 years old, but they rock harder than most twentysomethings.


Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith

Joined at the Hip

Label: Telarc
US Release Date: 2010-06-08
UK Release Date: 2010-07-26
Amazon
iTunes

It's not enough of a reason to listen to Pinetop Perkins, but the sheer fact that a 93-year-old man is out there banging the keys, writing tunes, and making records is something to celebrate. How many of us will be doing as much into our tenth decade? Of course, if the music were stodgy or dull, there would be no reason to listen to it, notwithstanding any respect to nonagenarians. Happily, Perkins’ latest collaboration with singer and harp player Willie "Big Eyes" Smith -- himself a nipper of 74 -- is full of the life and joy that only blues can provide. Bouncy, acoustic, piano-based songs are on display here, impeccably performed.

The album’s kickoff tune, cheekily entitled "Grown Up to Be a Man", introduces us to the pleasant mid-tempo shuffle that dominates much of this album. It's also heavy on Smith's soulful harmonica, an instrument that provides both rhythm and a stirring solo voice. "Cut That Out" and "Take Your Eyes Off My Woman" keep the foot-tapping energy in plentiful supply, both songs benefiting hugely from Smith's warm, husky vocals and Perkins's upbeat keyboard tickling.

Even better are the slower tunes, such as the haunting "Walkin' Down the Highway". Smith's voice and harp both convey volumes of weariness in the simplest of song structures, while some nifty, understated guitar work adds spice. Perkins gets a chance to show his keyboard chops as well. The vibe is more appropriate to a late night smoky bar as opposed to a rowdy juke joint, but that's just fine. It's what the blues is about, after all.

From this point on, Joined at the Hip hits its stride and never stumbles. "Gambling Blues" chug-a-lugs along irresistibly. Smith has the kind of voice that can declare "You know I threw that money away / And sat around with my head hung down" and make it sound not only genuinely tragic, but also exasperating yet -- here's the tricky bit -- thoroughly understandable, whatever your thoughts on gambling might be. Even if you've never gambled a penny in your life, you've certainly screwed up in one way or another, and the blues is the kind of music that binds us together through our moments of flawed humanity.

Most songs go over unsurprising subject matter: women, hard times, women, bad habits, your woman, my woman, feeling bad, and women. "I Would Like to Have a Girl Like You" and "Take Your Eyes Off My Woman" are fairly self-explanatory. More surprising are the devotionally-tinged "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" and "Lord, Lord, Lord". The sentiments expressed here are genuinely moving, the more so for being delivered in Smith's standing-at-the-end-of-the-road murmur or, in the case of the latter song, a half-strangled moan. Appealing to the Almighty becomes not so much an act of faith as one of desperation.

Perkins himself steps forward for singing duties on "Grindin' Man", a four-minute declaration of his sexual prowess. Are you going to argue with him? It's just one more surprise on an album that consistently delights, albeit in an understated way. Musical pyrotechnics are few and far between on this record. Instead, there is a surfeit of heart, soul and precision. When it comes to the blues, little else is needed.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image