In the summer of 2010, producer Jake Langley took pianist Pinetop Perkins into the studio knowing full well that this would be among the last sessions the blues legend would ever make. Pinetop was 97 years old, and odds were good that this would be the last time he'd ever be recorded, so Langley made sure to capture him in a setting that brought out the best in him, recording him live in the studio, sometimes supported by up-and-coming blues singers from the Austin, Texas area. These young guns included Gary Clark, Jr., who would have a major-label breakthrough in 2012, the same year How Long?
appeared on RockBeat Records. How Long?
did turn out to be Pinetop's last session, and it is a good one. Although there isn't much grit to the production -- it's as clean and crisp as any contemporary blues production -- there is more than enough room to breathe, so it feels live. Perkins isn't always in the forefront, either vocally or instrumentally -- "If You Love Me Like You Say" feels like a Clark solo track -- but when he is, he's a compelling presence, hardly sounding like he's close to his centennial. Perkins didn't live to see that anniversary, but this set proves that he was a vital, electric presence right until the end.