There are many ways of playing the blues and this is one of them. Back in the early days of jazz they would've called this approach to blues, "viper music." That term always sounded pretty good to me.
"Perdido Street Blues" was composed by the under appreciated Lil' Hardin Armstrong (the one time wife and pianist for Louis Armstrong) and was originally recorded back in 1926 by clarinet master Johnny Dodds and his New Orleans Wanderers. I was 14 when I first heard his version and, besides being blown away by Dodds' clarinet virtuosity, what captivated me was the minor/major key modulations that make up the song structure. With its low down almost spooky groove and melody, "Perdido Street Blues" is definitely some old time, back-in-the-alley viper music.
For many years I've toyed around with the idea of cutting the song as a guitar based piece but never got around to doing it. Recently, after playing a few gigs with blues/boogie woogie piano master Gene Taylor, I thought it might be fun to finally cut "Perdido Street Blues" with Gene doing what he does best on the keyboards. Besides Gene, I was thrilled to be joined by another fellow Blaster, John Bazz, thumping mean stand-up bass. Rounding out this unique group are Greg Leisz (my longtime producer and guitar hero) on the slippery electric lap steel guitar and current Guilty Man drummer Steve Mugalian on the snazzy drums and percussion. For this track I played my beloved 1934 National steel bodied guitar while Craig Parker Adams did his usual expert job recording everything live at his Winslow Court studio in Los Angeles, California.
I can't explain what a big kick it was to go back into the studio with Gene and John for the first time together since when we were in The Blasters years ago. Time and fate permitting we can hopefully do some more recording in the future. Until then I hope you enjoy our little bit of viper blues.
- Dave Alvin, January 9th, 2008