Album review: LUCKY PETERSON – I’m Back Again

Lucky Petersen - I'm Back Again

Blues Boulevard [Released 08.07.14]

Lucky Peterson’s ‘I’m Back Again’ is an 11 track live CD, culled from the mammoth 3 3DVD/2 CD ‘Live at the 55 Arts Club in Berlin’ box set. For those who can’t face such a huge undertaking, this album provides an exciting alternative, as it focuses on Lucky’s multi instrumental virtuosity and his ability to work a crowd.

It’s a sparkling album marred only by some heavy handed cuts that include an outrageous mid-number perfunctory end to the album. But if you can overlook such frustrating butchery, ‘I’m Back Again’ has enough exhilarating moments to make it worth buying.

Lucky is in imperious form throughout, exploding on keyboards, ripping it up on guitar and soulfully expressing his blues with weathered vocals.

‘I’m Back Again’ is well recorded and has a rare sonic quality. Lucky works the crowd as all good blues performers do, and if that dissipates the dynamic a little, then the album still delivers on many levels, from the well chosen material, to the kicking band and its stellar front man.

Lucky Peterson towers over the album like a tidal wave. When he’s not making his B3 roar like thunder he’s launching into stinging guitar solos, or exhorting the crowd to join in the vocal.

‘Smooth Sailing’ features such moments of audience participation, but never looses its dynamic. It’s nicely juxtaposed by an extended, ambitious and very soulful rendition of Ray LaMontagne’s ‘Trouble’, on which Peterson’s exemplary phrasing really get inside the song and he hits the top note over a big B3 sweep. It builds impressively on the back of Shawn Kellerman’s fiery guitar line, but the expected climax is completely lost by a shocking edit into the self explanatory ‘Blues Medley’.

Lucky switches to guitar to lead the band through some segued blues standards, on which he explores Texas blues guitar, full of contrasting clipped notes, effortless sustain, squawked chicken notes and even some Albert Collins cool.

You suspect a band like this could play this stuff all night long without breaking sweat, but that would be to underestimate Lucky Peterson’s crowd pleasing persona. It’s a symbiotic relationship that pushes him to new heights with incredible energy levels and plenty of guttural exhortations.

The band is razor sharp as Lucky suddenly plunges into his own take on Hendrix and SRV, before another sudden hefty edit drop us into the intro of the second set. The band rips into Rico McFarland’s ‘Giving Me The Blues’- complete with a burning solo from Kellerman over an incredibly tight arrangement – and Johnny Guitar Watson’s stop-time ‘Ta Ta You’. The band is crisp, tight and stretches out magnificently, as Lucky’s baritone vocal fills the song with deep expression and a primal growl.

There’s a double helping of funk on ‘It Ain’t Safe’ and ‘I’m Ready’. The latter organ heavy piece is a significant nod to Lucky’s original mentor Willie Dixon, who apparently discovered him when he was 3!

Peterson’s choice of covers is smart enough to include Wolf’s emotive ‘Who’s Been Talking’, on which he alters his timbre and adds a Jimmy Smith style organ solo.  Unfortunately, the heavy slide-led, stomping version of Jimmy Rogers ‘The World is in A Tangle’ doesn’t even make it to the first verse before a perfunctory cut.

Barbarous editing aside, ‘I’m Back Again’ is a rip roaring blues party that leaves you in no doubt that Lucky is one of the most exciting blues performers of his era. This album would have been worth 4 stars but for the cuts.  ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra

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