Don’t Let The Devil Ride
I remember the first time I saw James Peterson. It was a Main Street Buffalo, New York club, the Sunset Inn, and James led a quartet with a young teenage Lucky Peterson on keyboards, another son on drums and a bass player. There were a few bum notes but when James sang How Blue Can You get, or did a medley starting with Cummins Prison Farm, he would call out to someone in the club and get the crowd responding. While a capable guitarist, it was as a singer, that James grabbed me. Lucky’s a phenom, having natural pitch and a monster instrumentalist whose developing into a vocalist. But, even if James lacked his son’s gifts, he is a singer who grabs and holds the listener.
Waldoxy has produced the first full album by James which showcases his singing with some funk grooves, although, oddly it is also the first of his albums on which his son does not play. James authored most of the songs with the title track offering a bit of folk wisdom at odds with the notion of the blues as the devil’s music. Children Gotta Eat is a nice soulful number which deals with a woman too busy providing for her children to realize her dreams, and James revives one of his best blues, I Need You At Home, that he recorded first when Lucky was a child prodigy.
While It’s So Good may not have much of a lyric, it has a strong funk groove. Went Too Far, Stayed Too Long is an almost stereotypical, slow blues with fiery guitar (and Peterson fervently singing about how his woman blew their relationship). The album closes with some cautionary down-home, back-porch, philosophy from Peterson and George Jackson, Playin’ the Game, as he details his brother sitting in jail, and a girl raising a baby instead of being in school before stating “life could be better if you only play by the rules.”
Producers Tommy Couch, Jr., and Paul Lee (who also contributes the solid drumming on the date) have put together what clearly is James Peterson’s strongest album. It’s about time people had a chance to hear just how good a singer James Peterson is, and maybe he’ll be known other than as Lucky’s dad.
I likely received a review copy from the record company. This review appeared in the May-June 1995 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 202). Here is a short video of James Peterson performing.