Arizona Republic (June 4, 2009)

Arizona Republic, June 4, 2009

6/26-27: Big Pete Pearson and the Rhythm Room All-Stars

by Larry Rodgers – Jun. 4, 2009 11:44 AM

The Arizona Republic

Longtime Valley blues singer “Big” Pete Pearson and his chief collaborator, harmonica ace Bob Corritore, took full advantage of the national talent rolling through Phoenix in the past year as they recorded Pearson’s new CD, “Finger in Your Eye.”

Big Pete Pearson and the Rhythm Room All-Stars

When: 9 p.m. June 26 and 27.

Where: The Rhythm Room, 1019 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix.

Admission: $7.

Details: 602-265-4842, Note: The CD is on sale at the club and other Valley music outlets.

When such respected players as pianists Pinetop Perkins and Henry Gray, guitarists Duke Robillard and Billy Flynn, and drummer Eddie Kobek visited Arizona for shows, Pearson and Corritore talked them into participating in recording sessions for the album.

“When they come through town, we try to snatch them and go into the studio,” says Pearson, 72, who has been a force on the Phoenix blues scene on and off since the 1950s.

Corritore, who books national acts into his central Phoenix nightclub, the Rhythm Room, says, “It’s always a pleasure to work with other great artists. In each of the songs that features a guest, that person is given room to add their touch.”

Those guests, many based in Chicago or on the East Coast, allowed Pearson to record several gritty tracks in a style inspired by Windy City blues while adding hints of swing, boogie-woogie, honky-tonk and jazz in other places.

“Normally (onstage in Phoenix), I sing urban blues or a West Coast type, which is a little more jazzy or an R&B style,” Pearson says. “I changed most of it to Chicago style in order to record with the players I was working with.”

At the core of the album are the Rhythm Room All-Stars, made up of Corritore, guitarist Chris James, bassist Patrick Rynn and drummer Brian Fahey.

The group, which plays with Pearson at blues festivals in Europe and in clubs nationwide, also backed the singer on his second CD, 2007’s “I’m Here Baby.”

This lineup of the All-Stars has been in place since 2005, and Pearson and Corritore agree that time together solidified the band and made it easy to perform with guests on the new album.

Corritore, 52, says, “We’ve played together for a while now and toured all over the world, so we’ve learned to lean on each other more.”

Pearson and Corritore sound joined at the hip on “Finger in Your Eye,” with the harmonica player dropping perfectly timed fills between Pearson’s lusty singing and shouting.

Corritore and guitarist James also unleash powerful solos on several tracks.

Pearson, who is a veteran of gigs with T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Bobby “Blue” Bland, comes across as a no-nonsense preacher of the blues.

The new CD draws its title from the opening track, “Don’t Mess With Me,” in which Pearson sings, “Don’t you mess with me, woman, you might get a finger in your eye.”

Later in the song, he threatens to put his wandering lover in her grave.

Corritore says, “Pete is not messing around. When he gets down to sing some blues, it is serious business.”

This album marks the first time that Pearson has written all the material.

“The majority of these songs are things that I wrote years and years ago, but not all of them,” he says.

Corritore says he has seen Pearson develop as a writer, as the singer has decided that if he is going into a studio, he might as well record his own music.

The studio of choice for Pearson and Corritore is Tempest Recording in Tempe, a landmark on the local music landscape.

Tempest has been run since 1983 by Clarke Rigsby, who has worked with artists including Paul McCartney, Glen Campbell, Eric Burdon, the Four Tops and many Valley blues players.

“Clarke is a behind-the-scenes hero of Phoenix music,” Corritore says.

With Corritore and Rigsby there to egg him on onstage or in the studio, Pearson says he plans to do “as much as possible – the more, the better.”

Asked if he has any plans to slow down, Pearson gives a reply that will be music to the ears of Valley blues fans:

“No, none whatsoever.”

-Larry Rodgers

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