Twenty-five years after blues piano specialty label The Sirens Recordings recorded "Heavy Timbre - Chicago Boogie Piano" and captured a magical moment in piano music history, The Sirens records did it again. On November 13, 2001, The Sirens Records gathered four Chicago blues piano masters to record some low down solo blues and boogie woogie. These musicians tickled the keys of a concert grant piano, as they spurred one another on to bring out their best playing.
"8 Hands on 88 Keys" is the prefect complement to the "Heavy Timbre" recordings, as it shows how the Chicago blues piano style tradition has been passed down to another generation. Just like "Heavy Timbre," "8 Hands on 88 Keys" shows how each pianist brings his own style, personality, interpretation, and approach to blues piano.
"Barrelhouse" Chuck Goering is the "young gun" of the four pianists. His piano playing and singing style demonstrate the impact of his lengthy and successful apprenticeship with Little Brother Montgomery and Sunnyland Slim. Barrelhouse's interpretation of Sunnyland Slim's "It's You Baby," including his shouts of pain, had Detroit Junior and everyone else in the studio marveling during the recording session. While Chuck has learned the licks of his teachers, he has created his own exciting sound that emits soul and energy. Chuck also has a clear and passionate blues voice. His incredible memory for historic lyrics is displayed by the way he kept all of the original lyrics to Clarence "Pinetop" Smith's "Pinetop's Blues" and Roosevelt Sykes' "Miss Ida B."
Emery "Detroit Junior" Williams, Jr. has lived and played piano in Chicago for the last fifty years. He toured and recorded with Howlin' Wolf during the 70's, and he has two recent discs on the Blue Suit label. The recordings on this disc finally capture Detroit Junior solo. The 1960 selection "I'm So Unhappy," that Detroit Junior recorded and released on a 45 rpm record on the Bea & Baby label, was specifically requested by Barrelhouse Chuck. On this boogie Detroit shows us his percussive, primitive, and soulful style. His singing on 'Ain't Nobody's Business" is overflowing with emotion: just imagine Detroit with his eyes closed and a toothpick in his mouth while wailing on the vocals, and you'll feel like you're hearing him perform live.
Erwin Helfer emanates the Chicago blues piano tradition, having received mentoring from Cripple Clarence Lofton, yet his playing is also a product of classical training and a love for jazz standards. On this disc, Helfer provides continuity for the session by tastefully accompanying Barrelhouse, Detroit, and Pinetop on blues standards. His treatment of "Four O'clock Blues" takes Chicago blues piano further than Jimmy "Papa" Yancy could have ever imagined. Erwin Helfer is an important part of Chicago blues piano history, and The Sirens records is fortunate to have him play on "8 Hands on 88 Keys," "Heavy Timbre," as well as his recently released solo recording, "I'm Not Hungry But I Like To Eat - Blues."
Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins is the elder statesman of blues piano. Early in his career he played with a number of well-known blues legends like Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, and Earl Hooker. In the late sixties and seventies Pinetop gained more notoriety by recording and touring with Muddy Waters. Although he has recorded extensively with others over the years on a number of different labels, a recording of him playing solo is rare, which makes it even more special. At 88 years old, his playing is still as subtle, laid back, and rhythmic as ever. Enjoy his soulful, playful singing on "I Almost Lost My Mind." Move to his bluesy bouncing on J.B. Lenoir's "How Much More," and his cool, bluesy interpretations of the classics "How Long" and "Grinder Man."