Bernie Pearl’s new disc is a feast of back-porch Delta blues – a live performance with just the man and his guitar doing old-time Mississippi country style tunes. And they’re incredibly authentic.
The 10-song disc has everything you’d expect from the guitarist-singer who was taught by the likes of Lightnin’ Hopkins, “Mississippi” Fred McDowell and Mance Lipscomb. It doesn’t get more informed than that. All three are covered on the disc, with three from McDowell - including the famous “61 Highway,” two by Lipscomb (“Bumble Bee” and “Rocks and Gravel Boogie,”) and “Shotgun Blues” from Hopkins, one of the best songs on the disc. Pearl included Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” as well. The songs are excellent choices, showcasing the style, but unusual enough to be fresh.
Pearl included one, terrific, original, “Blues for Lightnin’,” an instrumental tribute to the older man’s haunting Texas style.
Throughout the album, Pearl’s finger picking demonstrates a unique quality of making the acoustic guitar sound electric, and sometimes like two guitars. His Delta guitar is unbelievably true-to-form, emoting a nagging melancholy.
Naturally, there’s lots of applause from the audience at Boulevard Music in Culver City, Calif.
The disc opens with “Laundromat Blues” from Albert King, one of the tougher-sounding songs. Although Pearl’s guitar playing is super throughout the disc, his voice sometimes goes off key, and is at its weakest on this song. As one would expect, there are laughs about laundry jokes with sexual double entendres in the song, i.e.: “I think she’s using Duz, I wish she’d use some ‘don’t’.”
Somebody Got to Do It is Pearl’s second solo CD. The first, released in 2002, was an earlier live performance at the same venue.
Pearl began his musical journey in his brother’s Los Angeles coffeehouse-gallery-folk music center, Ash Grove, which opened in 1958. The club hosted blues artists such as “Lone Cat” Jesse Fuller, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee – who also showed Pearl some licks. Hopkins, McDowell and Lipscomb played at the club as well.
Pearl’s big break came one night at the Ash Grove when Big Mama Thornton sacked her guitarist on opening night, and gave the gig to Pearl.
He then went on to play at that club with J.B. Hutto, Johnny Shines & Big Walter Horton, Koko Taylor, and Freddie King, to name a few. He even booked the legendary Howlin’ Wolf, Albert Collins, and Albert King in their Los Angeles debuts. That’s quite a resume.
In 1968, he became L.A.’s first all-blues DJ on FM radio, hosting a show called “Nothin’ but the Blues” on KPPC. In 1980, he founded a family-style blues festival which has evolved into the Long Beach Blues Festival, one of the most popular in the country.