"Pinetop Perkins and Friends" is set for release just a few weeks before Perkins' 95th birthday on July 7, and is just what the title implies - a giant of blues piano surrounded by more than a dozen high-caliber musicians, many of them legendary in their own right, all of whom hold him in the highest regard. Included on the star-studded guest list are guitarists Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Jimmie Vaughan, bassist Willie Kent (who passed away in March 2008), drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and many more.
The ten-track set includes some of the most familiar and revered songs in the blues, all of them anchored by Perkins on piano and vocals. But don't be fooled by the numbers on this elder statesman's odometer. He remains in top form throughout the set, as evidenced by the spirited musical - and sometimes vocal - repartee between him and his various guest artists.
The well-known 12-bar opener, "Take It Easy Baby," is one of Perkins' numerous contributions to the blues lexicon. This rendition features Perkins on piano and lead vocals, along with Jimmie Vaughan lending an element of grit on lead guitar. The followup track, "Got My Mojo Working," is the call-and-response classic that features Eric Sardinas on slide guitar and backing vocals.
A couple more high-profile guitarists step forward on the next two tracks, as B.B. King burns through the uptempo "Down in Mississippi" (and offers Perkins some vocal give-and-take as well) while Eric Clapton lays down his signature sound - laid back riffs full of soul - for the melancholy medley, "How long Blues"/"Come Back Baby" The medley also features a powerful vocal duet between Perkins and the compelling Nora Jean Bruso.
"Nobody's ever put those two songs together before," says Nelson, who considers the medley one of his favorite tracks on the album. "I asked Pine if he thought it would work and if it would be right to do it. He liked the idea, and it ended up sounding like magic. We're both very proud of that track." "Hoochie Coochie Man," the grinding, testosterone-driven classic by Willie Dixon, derives its churning energy from the combination of Perkins' sleek piano/vocal delivery, augmented by Vaughan's trebly guitar accents and backing vocals.
In the home stretch, Perkins serves up a loose, rollicking version of Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago" with the help of "Little Frank" Krakowski and Paul Diethelm on guitars, along with Brusco and Doug Nelson on backing vocals. The album closes with the slow-grooving "Bad Luck Baby," supported by the rock solid rhythm section of bassist Willie Kent and drummer Leon Smith.