New releases from Phoenix acts Big Pete Pearson, The Sun Punchers
Courtesy of Big Pete Pearson

Phoenix isn’t the place where you’d expect to find one of the great elder statesmen of the blues but the Valley has long been the place where the legendary Big Pete Pearson hangs his hat. The 81-year-old isn’t just a veteran of the local scene; Pearson has worked with a veritable who’s who of blues stars including Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, T-Bone Walker, Buddy Guy, Pinetop Perkins, Ike & Tina Turner and many others. Below we take a listen to his latest album, as well as the new effort from hot up-and-comers The Sun Punchers.

Big Pete Pearson
Steppin’ Out
Fervor Records

Keeping with the theme indicated by the album’s title, Pearson is in fine form promoting an evening of blues and the extra-curricular activities that come with it on the peppy “Blues Wagon,” suggesting to his honey that “everything will be alright” if they “ride the blues wagon tonight.” The song features female background singers cooing “ride, ride, ride,” making it clear that the blues wagon is going to make a stop in the bedroom.

“Mr. Brown” is filled with clever and lusty braggadocio like “I’m like a blanket, I keep you hot all night” and appropriately enhanced with raunchy sax lines but Pearson is not too happy with his woman on “Salt in My Coffee,” a shuffle that finds the singer dismayed that he’s only getting salt while his “sugar” goes to the next door neighbor. “Too Much Trouble” is self-explanatory and plays out to a slow rhythm and is the very kind of song that has come to define most people’s definition of the blues.

Steppin’ Out features guest appearances from numerous other blues luminaries such as guitarist Chuck Hall, long time scenester Hans Olson, Andy Gonzales, Jerry Donato, Chris Gough and Donnie Dean.

Pearson plays local shows most every week, for a listing of upcoming gigs go here.

The Sun Punchers

Here’s a very impressive five-song EP from this Americana band featuring the soulful-voiced Betsy Ganz on lead vocals. Fans of singers like Allison Moorer will find a kindred spirit in Ganz’s work on the title track and “Coming Through;” the latter takes on an ominous edge as guest player Jon Rauhouse lays down eerie pedal steel licks to accent Ganz’s mournful vocals about her man not coming through.

“Hooker Shoes” finds the Sun Punchers in a playful mood as Ganz sings about a woman hitting the mall and trying to resist feeding her shoe jones, all to no avail as she imagines the footwear seducing her with pickup lines like “slide into me and I’ll set you free” and “c’mon Toots, you gotta make a decision/take a spin in me and find your religion.” Adding to the song’s charm is its burlesque overtone, heightened by honking baritone sax from Fred Reyes.

Perhaps the most commercial song here is the catchy “Son of a Bishop,” a tune that will no doubt have many of those who sing-along making the obvious alteration to the title lyric. Area fans can sing-along live when the Sun Punchers perform at Last Exit Live on Dec. 12 and at the New Times Readings show at the Crescent Ballroom on Dec. 16.