Lucky Peterson Band feat. Tamara Peterson
LIVE AT THE 55 ARTS CLUB BERLIN
RELEASE DATE: 02/12/2013 (US)
LABEL: Blackbird Music (www.blackbird-music.de)
2013 BLUES MUSIC AWARD NOMINEE FOR DVD
“Born to the blues” is a cliché when appropriated indiscriminately. However, Judge Kenneth “Lucky” Peterson can not only claim it honestly, but also proudly add that he grew up in the blues as his father, bluesman James Peterson, owned a popular blues club in Buffalo, New York. When visiting legend Willie Dixon heard five-year old Lucky play Hammond organ with the skills and old soul of a grown man, he became his mentor. A year later the child prodigy had recorded the album Our Future: 5 Year Old Lucky Peterson and was performing on TV. He began doubling on guitar at eight, played French horn in school, was a member of Little Milton’s band at 17 and would go on to serve an apprenticeship with Bobby “Blue” Bland before striking out on his own in 1984 with Ridin’. After 12 albums and countless roads traveled later, the sum total of a “life in the blues” has produced the sonic fireball Live at the 55 Arts Club Berlin in Germany with his wife Tamara and band, available as either a 2-disk CD or a spectacular premium, combination 5-disk CD/DVD package.
Lucky and Tamara front the roof raising juggernaut of Shawn Kellerman (guitar), Tim Waites (bass) and Raul Valdes (drums). 22 stunning originals and covers kick off with the original shuffle “I’m Back Again.” After settling behind the big B-3 organ, Lucky conclusively proves why he is back again with searing runs as the band swings like crazy, his natural growl stating his case while modulating dynamically. The driving funk of “Smooth Sailing” floats gracefully on the steady current of the synchronized rhythm section following the boss’s cues with split-second precision as he enlists audience participation. The sweetly melancholy and gospel-hued ballad “Trouble” has Lucky dramatically throttling back the energy punctuated by hair-raising crescendos while exorcising his pain with the unshakable faith of a preacher. As the band vamps, Lucky straps on a gleaming white axe, ripping slashing licks with bare fingers before segueing into the show-stopping “Blues Medley.” Over a surging boogie shuffle Lucky rambles with unquestionable authority through fret-melting quotes from “Hide Away,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “I Wonder Why” and “Little Red Rooster” before segueing into “You Shook Me” as the lovely and talented Tamara Peterson makes her way to the stage while taking up the vocal line.
Mrs. Peterson confidently guides the band while sashaying into the rocking funk of “Knocking” with her hubby back on the organ, highlighted by their engaging in a rollicking unison “scat.” The effusive singer switches easily from a sultry purr to testifying gospel and a full-throated blues shout. On her original “How Do I, Why Do I,” a striking slice of minor key, jazzy funk, she passionately implores “how and why” she loves her man, intensified with equal passion via an unleashed wah wah guitar solo from Kellerman. Commanding the spotlight, Tamara glides into her “I Don’t Like You But I Love You” employing a sensual Latin groove over which she eloquently enumerates her contradictory declaration. Lucky enters and creates a medley with “Woke Up This Morning” as the performance becomes a brilliantly arranged, love-tossed duet. The original 8-bar blues ballad “Been So Long” drops to an intimate level while Tamara and Lucky banter, her smoldering female restraint in counterpoint to his boisterous male crowing brought to a climax by Kellerman’s volcanic solo. On a roll with the “love” theme, Tamara leads the mid-tempo, jazzy minor funk of her “I Wanna Know What Good Love Is” in a classic female R&B torch song again boosted by Kellerman squeezing the daylights out of his Telecaster. Closing out disk 1, “Lost the Right” swings the shuffle led by Lucky back on guitar who admits “I lost the right to call you mine” as Tamara cuts him no slack, though Lucky attempts contrition with a “loving” solo.
Disk 2 opens with Lucky behind the keyboards and the hard charging funk of Rico McFarland’s “Giving Me the Blues.” Driven relentlessly forward by the deep groove and power of Waites and Valdes, it features a lightning solo from Kellerman. “Ta’ Ta’ You,” a Johnny “Guitar” Watson slow blues, breathtakingly lowers the energy threshold, Lucky showcasing how he and his band can turn on a dime and dynamically syncopate a standard 12 bar blues from a holler to a whisper. A segue into the throbbing R&B of Clarence Carter’s “It Ain’t Safe” finds Lucky speaking both female and male parts in a humorous exchange not often heard in contemporary blues. The classic “I’m Ready” begins with the jaunty syncopation of the Muddy Waters original before Lucky makes it swing for his epic, incendiary organ solo. Paying further tribute to the pioneers of postwar Chicago blues, Lucky presents the minor key, Latin beat of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking?” before jumping up from the keyboard, strapping on a guitar and launching into a raucous, barrelhouse version of Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom,” his glass slider burning up the strings in yet another display of his exceptional virtuosity. Included in his country blues extravaganza are quotes from “I’m Gonna Build Myself a Cave,” “Walking Blues” and “This Old World’s in a Tangle.”
Still vamping on his smoking slide guitar, Lucky brings Tamara back and they perform a grinding, raw country blues duet on Prince’s “Kiss” that spans generations and genres and features an actual kiss passing between them. Tamara’s “Last Night You Left” further confirms her mastery of parsing advice for the lovelorn in a silky, late night ballad with Lucky caressing the ivories and building to an emotional climax so real it is scary. On “Ain’t Nobody Like You” she applies a salve to her pain with a tender expression of love over a dramatic, minor key, slinky funk groove on which Waites takes a fluid, melodic 5-string bass solo. Closing the sprawling, generous show is Tamara’s “Real Music,” an apt title not only here but on the totality of the Peterson’s repertoire, with sexy, back snapping funk on which everyone solos, including drummer Valdes who plays with unusual rhythmic intelligence. Several false endings bring the evening to a joyous, celebratory conclusion with the wildly exuberant crowd on its feet demanding more.
The combination package includes two DVDs capturing the show contained on the CDs. It is the next best thing to having been in the club as Lucky and Tamara work hard to entertain and bring the audience into their inclusive and loving world of music. In addition, a bonus disk spotlights Shawn Kellerman, Tim Waites and Raul Valdes performing covers of “Boogie Thang,” “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Love of Mine” and the guitarist’s original “Big Time.” Kellerman is a noted recording artist in his own right and seeing him lead a power trio opening for Lucky is a special treat not to be missed. Also featured is Behind the Scenes, a fascinating mini-documentary of the Peterson band arriving in Berlin and rehearsing excerpts of “Mother-in-Law Blues,” “I Wanna Know What Good Love Is,” “Move on You,” “Who’s Been Talking?,” “Love Me” and “Trouble. ” Along with a candid peek “behind the scenes” that few outsiders ever see, it includes a revealing interview with Lucky that sheds light on his radiant manner.
Lucky Peterson has been there and back and has earned the priceless experience that, along with his extraordinary talent, few of his peers or even predecessors can approach. With his soul and musical partner Tamara at his side, they combine to create a priceless musical experience to be enjoyed over and over again.
Dave Rubin, KBA recipient in Journalism