As a testament to his 50 years playing blues music guitarist Bernie Pearl
has released Old School Blues
, a double disc CD featuring acoustic and electric blues. The solo acoustic side features ten songs (seven played on a Martin, three on a National) that include two with Michael Barry
on upright bass. The electric side was recorded with Pearl's longtime band of Barry on upright and electric bass, Albert Trepagnier Jr.
on drums and Dwayne Smith
on piano. Each disc was recorded in two days and the first mixes, with one overdubbed vocal and instrumental track, are what ended up on the CD. We undid almost every bit of reverb, compression, or anything else that made it sound processed. It's a warts-and-all recording that represents my approach to the blues in its true form - raw, uncompromising and compelling. It's not perfect, but it's my testimony and it's what I do, what we do - one night solo acoustic in a restaurant, next gig with the band, amp cranked, then in concert with Michael Barry on bass, playing to a hushed audience."
Old School Blues/Acoustic features: Mance Lipscomb's Blues in the Bottle," Bernie's version of Goin' Down Slow" inspired by Mance and Lightnin', Muddy Waters' I Be's Troubled," an instrumental arrangement played on a National guitar of I'll Fly Away," God Moves On the Water" with Bernie borrowing words and slide guitar licks" from Blind Willie Johnson and Mance Lipscomb, Country Sugar Mama" based on a Little Son Jackson song and laced with inspiration from Lightnin' Sam and Snooks Eaglin," Big Boy Crudup's Rock Me Mama," Pawnshop Blues" that Bernie learned from Brownie McGhee, Shake 'Em Down" - a rural Mississippi dance music learned from mentor and teacher Fred MacDowell and Berlin Rag" an original instrumental composed and played for the 2007 theatrical production The Berlin Blues.
Old School Blues/Electric that Bernie advises to turn up loud features: Automobile Blues" an early Lightnin' Sam Hopkins classic, Cherry Ball" that Mance Lipscomb called Shake, Shake Mama," Mance Lipscomb's The Ballad of Freddie," and Rocks & Gravel Boogie," Albert King's Crosscut Saw" with six new verses of my own," Little Jr. Parker's Driving Wheel" in a '50s juke joint style, If You Lose Your Money," that Bernie learned from Brownie McGhee, the Chicago blues of Jimmy Reed's Baby, You Don't Have To Go," and Otis Rush You Know I Love You".
The CD runs through a full range of styles and approaches, but all of them belong together as that's how I perceive and interpret the music. It's what I've gleaned over the years."
When Bernie released Live From Boulevard Music and Somebody Got To Do It!, (both from his concerts at the venue), in 2002 and 2006 they were long awaited solo CDs from a musical history that began in 1958 at his brother Ed Pearl's legendary Ash Grove club. It was there Bernie learned about the blues directly from the masters themselves. It was a unique education that proved instrumental throughout his association with the blues including: hosting the first all blues FM radio show in Los Angeles in 1968, playing a major role in a blues and gospel fest now known as the Long Beach Blues Festival, Handy nominations for CDs recorded with <>Harmonica Fats, and producing (as well as playing on) Papa John Creach's Papa Blues LP. And both Live and Somebody provided a taste of what Bernie picked up along the way receiving such praise as An acoustic guitar wizard who fully understands the nuances of the music," - Vintage Guitar; Pearl's finger picking demonstrates a unique quality of making the acoustic guitar sound electric, and sometimes like two guitars" - Boston Blues Review; There won't be many times in your life you'll hear blues like this!" - F.A.M.E.
Bernie also learned about the blues through personal conversations with the artists while chauffeuring them around town before and after their gigs at the Ash Grove. He studied with Brownie McGhee as Sonny Terry was quietly riffing nearby." He also met and played with Lightnin' Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Fred MacDowell, and a host of others. When Big Mama Thornton fired her guitarist on opening night, I got the gig." At the Ash Grove he led bands behind J.B. Hutto, Johnny Shines & Walter Horton, Koko Taylor, and Freddie King and got to know and work with L.A. bluesmen George Harmonica" Smith, Pee Wee Crayton, Eddie Cleanhead" Vinson, Lowell Fulson and Big Joe Turner, among others. Bernie also booked Howlin' Wolf, Albert Collins, and Albert King in their Los Angeles debuts.
Bernie's Nothin' But The Blues radio show on KPPC in 1968 made him L.A.'s first all blues DJ on FM radio. In 1980 while at KLON (now KKJZ) Bernie played a major role in founding, directing and booking the first KLON Blues & Gospel Festival, now known as the Long Beach Blues Festival. He continued to book the festival until 1990 (with the exception of 1985 - 86) and won a Handy in 1987 as Blues Producer of the Year in part for his production of the Long Beach Blues Festival as well as numerous other local shows. His 15-year relationship with Louisiana bluesman Harmonica Fats produced three CDs, including Two Heads Are Better and Blow, Fat Daddy, Blow each garnering W.C. Handy nominations in the mid '90s.
Bernie continues to gig and was a featured performer of the Ash Grove's 50th Anniversary Concert at UCLA in April 2008. He will also play the Long Beach Bayou Festival in June, the Animas River Blues Festival in New Mexico in July and the Navasota Blues Festival in Texas in August.
All CDs are available through CDBaby.