There comes a time in the life of many artists when they feel called upon to make some kind of personal statement about their work and about their lives. Now approaching his 50th year, blues vocalist, guitarist and organist extraordinaire, Lucky Peterson hears the call, and the result is his latest album The Son of a Bluesman. The album’s songs combine autobiographical personal original compositions with a number of tunes that have special meaning to Peterson, in the sum painting a musical self-portrait, analogous to a Rembrandt selfie.
Certainly not every artist’s personal narrative makes for great art. There are plenty that have been scorned and scolded for parading “the pageants of their bleeding hearts” in their autobiographical pieces, and rightly so. But Peterson with a voice that ranges from white lightning to the finest mellow bourbon, with a passionate virtuosity and joyful abandon on both the guitar and the Hammond B-3 in in no danger of scorn or scolding. He makes his personal statement not only something emotionally cleansing, but something artistically special. Lucky Peterson writing, playing and singing about his life, its joys and its challenges is Lucky Peterson at his best.
Whether the songs deal directly with his life like the confessional “I’m Still Here,” which appears twice on the album, first as a blues number, and then closing the set in a gospel arrangement, or a cover of a song that seems to have some special meaning for the singer, like his treatment of Bobby Bland’s “I Pity the Fool,” Peterson brings an earnest emotional honesty to his performance. There is a real sincerity in his version of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” and even more so in an instrumental like the moving “Nana Jarell,” dedicated to both his mother and mother-in-law. “Joy,” the most upbeat optimistic piece on the album, recruits the talents of the whole Peterson clan for the happy moment.
Although, as the album’s opening song puts it, Peterson has “Blues in His Blood,” and as he sings in the title song: “I didn’t choose the blues, the blues chose me.” And because they did, he understands that he is, as the rousing penultimate song on the album points out: “You Lucky Dog.”
Lucky Peterson might not be a household name, but listen to him sing and play on The Son of a Bluesman, and you have to wonder why. One thing is clear from this album, he should be.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00J0EB4CA]