"Southern Style Homecooked Blues and Side Dishes" demonstrates that Britain's Bob Pearce is a talented Blues singer/songwriter. The album was recorded in Austin, TX, and released in 1997, with local musicians. As the title suggests it's mainly Blues, with some elements of other Southern styles thrown in for good measure, and the relaxed Southern attitude prevails throughout. This mood is epitomized by the lyrics of the self-penned opener "What's Wrong With This World": "You see you only live once / So take your time / No sense in running round / Enjoy yourself / While you're here / Cos you're a long time in the ground."
The album features Pearce in a band setting, except for a couple of solo tracks. The first, "Everybody Pleasin' Man," tells how you might as well please yourself because you cannot please all of the people all of the time. The other ("Fifteen Minutes") is Pearce's story of his 15 minutes of fame in 1992. When Bob hums along I keep half-expecting him to emit a John Lee Hooker growl.
New Orleans gets a nod on "Checkbook Charlie" by local guitarist Dave Taylor. There's some nice interplay between Pearce's harp and Ken Riley's trombone. The ensuing "It's Up To You to Make The Change," is also rooted in New Orleans. Jim Ivy adds some surprisingly Bluesy clarinet on this one. Ivy also plays horns with Brian Todd on "Sweet Love To Me," a song straight from the great New Orleans R&B tradition.
Southern Soul influences are also in evidence on songs like "Think of Someone Who Loves You," where Pearce shares vocals with local singer John "Pee Wee" Calvin. It's given a poppy arrangement which seems ideally suited to daytime radio. The Soul archives are also raided for Solomon Burke's "Looking For My Baby."
Pearce has a keen eye for detail; a number of the songs describe experiences associated with making the recording. "Confused," for example, with it's Bo Diddley-like beat, relates the story of being whisked off to the States to record. Then there's the poignant Soul ballad "I'll Be Coming Home", which brings things to a close in more ways than one. As well as ending the album, it also ends Pearce's absence from home.
"Southern Style... " stands up well to repeated listenings and shows Bob Pearce to be a gifted Blues musician. He's obviously listened to a range of Blues styles, adapting and blending their influences with his own ideas to create his particular brand of Blues. Several of the Bluesmen that Pearce has worked with agree that Bob Pearce is "the real thing"; "Southern Style..." simply adds further weight to their argument.
Try before your buy by downloading the .wav samples from the Havic Records site: www.havic.com/Artist/B_Pearce/BPBio.htm
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.