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Lucky Peterson - You Can Always Turn Around

Dreyfus Jazz

11 tracks/

Only forty-five years old, the multi-talented Lucky Peterson has a career that has already spanned four decades. He grew up in his father’s music club and was tutored by organist Bill Doggett and other touring musicians that played the club. He had a hit record at the ripe old age of six, produced by the legendary Willie Dixon, which led to several high-profile TV appearances including one on the Tonight Show. Peterson also served lengthy stints in the bands of Bobby “Blue” Bland and Little Milton. His subsequent solo career features his talents on a variety of big labels including Alligator, Verve and JSP. In 1996, he recorded a critically acclaimed tribute album to Mahalia Jackson with Peterson on keyboards and Mavis Staples on the lead vocals.

Peterson plays guitar, piano and Hammond organ at a virtuoso level and is an accomplished vocalist with a strong gospel background. His latest release offers two dramatically different slices of his artistry. Half of the eleven tracks are devoted to new renditions of classic blues songs. The disc opens with Peterson’s booming voice shouting out a spirited run-through of “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” with Lucky playing acoustic slide on a duolian resonator guitar. Support comes from Dylan sideman Larry Campbell on a variety of stringed instruments, Scott Petito on bass and Gary Burke on drums. “Statesboro Blues” gets a rousing treatment with another fine vocal from the leader. Peterson dips into the Rev. Gary Davis songbook for a solemn take on “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” with some slashing slide guitar licks. “Why Are People Like That” finds Peterson snarling and screaming for an explanation of world’s ills. The disc closes with a gentle, luxurious acoustic version of Percy Mayfield’s “Think” with Campbell on the pedal steel guitar.

The other half of the disc is devoted to tunes from some of the best contemporary songwriters. One highlight is “Trouble”, with Peterson on piano and taking listeners to church with a powerful performance on Ray LaMontagne’s tale of love’s redemptive power. Lucky breaks out his electric guitar on Lucinda Williams’ “Atonement”, unleashing several blistering solos to support his raging vocal. Peterson’s wife, Tamara, joins him on “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free” and quickly proves to be as talented a vocalist as her husband. The half-spoken vocal on the folksy “I’m New Here” doesn’t play to Peterson’s strength and his wordless, middle-Eastern vocalizing on Tom Waits’ “Trampled Rose” fails to connect. The lone Peterson original is “Four Little Boys” that tells the story of passing of an ancestor, who gets her husband to promise to keep the children and care for them before she dies.

Some might wonder if we need another version of songs like “Statesboro Blues”. Peterson certainly settles that discussion by going to the acoustic format and then injecting plenty of life into the songs with his potent vocals. There are enough strong performances on this one to satisfy long-time fans and exceptional tracks like “Trouble” are sure to catch the attention of anyone that takes the time to check out this worthy recording.

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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