For those who think that the blues has used up all its ideas in overly-cliched songs about somebody’s woman doin’ him wrong, played over the usual ba-DA-da-Da-da beat, a new record has appeared on the horizon brimming with new twists on grand old ideas.
That record is Lucky Peterson's Double Dealin’.
What makes a record truly great is its ability branch out into different genres while remaining rooted in the foundation from which it sprang. In this case, every excursion-from funk, to reggae, to soul, to something that sounds like a combination of all three-stays firmly planted in the good ol' foundation of the blues.
And Lucky Peterson does just that. Here's a guy whose talents range from ultra-soulful singing, to gritty chops on the Hammond B-3, to fiery gut-wrenching guitar playing that puts those dime-a-dozen Stevie Ray Vaughan wannabes to shame. The title track, with its arsenal of electric guitar fireworks, kicks everything off in fine fashion. Lucky makes it clear from the first notes that he's here to play the blues, strut his stuff, and show off everything he's digested through the masters. Make no mistake: Lucky is nobody's copycat; he takes the ideas from the masters and makes them his own. Nowhere is this more evident than on the funky workout "Smooth Sailing," with its vocals and guitar-work that could fit in with any of B.B. King's best work of the sixties. You're also forgiven if you mistake Lucky for Dr. John on the slow drag of "Where Can a Man Go."
He can sing, play guitar and organ with the best of them, but Lucky Peterson is also a fine songwriter to boot, as three of the songs testify. On two songs, he is assisted by his father, legendary bluesman James Peterson: a gut-wrenching slow-blues called "When My Blood Runs Cold," and "4 Little Boys," which is easily this record's best track. Softly sing-speaking over a quiet but firm backbeat, Lucky tells the true and tragic story of his grandmother who died when Lucky's father was sixteen months old. The lyrics are sad but never maudlin, with a glimmer of hope shining in the tragic situation. If you can sit through this song without getting choking up, call the doctor and tell him your heart stopped working!
In addition to the virtuosity Lucky puts on display, he also surrounds himself with wonderfully talented musicians to help him carry his blues. The dynamic duo of the Texicali Horns are present; every blues singer should be fortunate to have these guys cookin' up the background with their imaginative fills. They even get to strut their stuff in fine solo fashion, as tenor sax-man Joe Sublett takes off on one of the fiercest solos on this record, rivaling some of Lucky's own fiery guitar-slinging. Add to that the ivory-tinkling of keyboardist Jon Cleary—who evokes the spirit of the great Johnnie Johnson on a couple of tunes, most notably "3 Handed Woman," which sounds like something Chuck Berry could've done in his prime)—the rumbling rhythm section of Johnny Lee Schell on rhythm guitar, Reggie McBride on bass, and Tony Braunagel on drums, and you've got a band that any roadhouse would kill to have on their bandstand.
The only problem with listening to this record is that it begs for the proper atmosphere. You can't just be sitting in your living room in the middle of American suburbia and expect to truly enjoy this album. Additionally, it's even less effective as background music in your office at work! I suggest, assuming you can't get Lucky in your town, or if your local blues bar won't put this on their CD player (what's the matter with those guys?), you light about 30 cigarettes and set them in various ashtrays in your living room. Then dump about 12 cans of beer on your carpet (not real beer, use Natural Light or something like that) to get the true atmosphere of a good blues bar.
Atmosphere or no, Double Dealin’ is a fine record and a welcome addition to the latest blues catalogs.
Double Dealin'/ It Ain't Safe/ When My Blood Runs Cold/ Smooth Sailing/ Don't Try to Explain/ Mercenary Baby/ Ain't Doin' Too Bad/ Where Can a Man Go/ 3 Handed Woman/ Doin' Bad, Feelin' Good/ 4 Little Boys/ Remember the Day
Lucky Peterson (vocals, lead guitar, Hammond B-3 organ); Johnny Lee Schell (rhythm guitar); Jon Cleary (keyboards); Reggie McBride (bass); Tony Braunagel (drums); Darrell Leonard (trumpet, trombonium); Joe Sublett (tenor sax); John Porter (guitar); Tamara Peterson (background vocals); The Texicali Horns