By now, if you've read my work in FAME, you know that all Bernie Pearl has to do is issue a CD, and it automatically goes on my Year's Best Of when the time rolls around in December. With this latest disc, though, that's not the end of the story, as Take Your Time features a guest singer I'd heard a lot about but had never been able to catch on her own or sitting in with the band here: Barbara Morrison, an L.A. local highly regarded. And, yep, she and Bernie make a great blues duet, most vividly shown in Tough Times. More, this disc carries the third member of Bernie's electric band as well, Albert Trepanier, plus Bobby 'Hurricane' Spencer on sax, and you can detect how much Spencer contributes 'cause there's an extra something Bernie catches when the guy's done with a solo (Third Degree is a great case in point).
Normally, Pearl shows are just he and bassist Mike Barry, which is plenty, as the configuration keeps the guitarist's work clean, stripped down, and centered on singing and riveting guitar work. However, Albert Trepanier knows just how to keep things baselined on the drums, nailing the tempo to the floor, putting punctuation to the narrative. The title to the CD is taken from a comment from Mississippi Fred MacDowell, one of Bernie's mentors, regarding working with the blues, and Pearl certainly took the advice to heart, as his approach is confidently relaxed but finely focused, whether in ballad mode or working up a stomper.
Frankly, you can start listening to Bernie Pearl at any point in his growing catalogue and be nothing but happy and engrossed, but, even so, the guy's a purist and ceaselessly refining his craft, sometimes taking a year or more -- sometimes a hell of a lot longer -- before satisfying himself that he's got a particular song right, letting the public in on the result. Thus, there's a subtle but definable evolution to his mastery that reminds me of a quip by Segovia after a White House performance, wherein the maestro was asked how, after more than 60 years of playing, he felt about the guitar. He answered, with a glowing smile, "You know…I think I'm just beginning to understand this instrument".
Take Your Time is ample demonstration that no matter how long you work at it, the guitar and the blues contain depths that just keep opening up. And that's what you get this time out: the added luster, warmth, and degree of exposition that comes only of toil, discretion, long familiarity, and an irreducible love for the fullest dimensions of the art. This can't help but anticipate the future, and, hey, if he wants to pull Barbara Morrison in again for even more dueting next time around, I won't complain one little bit. In fact, if they made an entire CD together……well, let's not get ahead of ourselves; Take Your Time is enough bliss for one review.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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