Pinetop Perkins / Willie "Big Eyes" Smith

Joined at the Hip

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It’s hard to believe this album wasn’t made a long time ago, actually, since blues pianist Pinetop Perkins and drummer and harmonica player Willie "Big Eyes" Smith have worked together frequently in the past 40 some years. Perkins replaced the legendary pianist Otis Spann in Muddy Waters' band in 1969 when Smith was the drummer in the ensemble, and later Perkins and Smith formed the Legendary Blues Band in the 1980s. Perkins was 96 years old when the sessions for Joined at the Hip were recorded, but one wouldn’t know it, and Smith, now out from behind the drum kit (his son, Kenny Smith, plays drums here), concentrates on his harp blowing and handles most of the vocals. The result is a solid Chicago blues record, one that feels like it could have been tracked anytime in the past four decades. The sound is big and warm and alive, and this is the Chicago blues without any annoying and unnecessary flash -- it just socks home where it’s supposed to, with solid ensemble playing (Bob Stroger is on bass and John Primer and "Little Frank" Krakowski handle the guitars while Perkins, of course, mans the piano and Smith adds appropriate harmonica fills, with Kenny Smith on drums). Highlights include the opener, “Grown Up to Be a Man,” a fine version of Sonny Boy Williamson's “Eyesight to the Blind” (the second Sonny Boy -- “Eyesight” was his first single back in 1951), and a compelling “I Would Like to Have a Girl Like You,” which was written by Billy Flynn, who was also a member of the Legendary Blues Band with Perkins and Smith. Produced by Michael Freeman, Joined at the Hip is Chicago blues played straight and true, headed up by a couple of veteran blues musicians who not only know what they’re talking about, they’ve also lived it.

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