January 11, 1999 12:00 PM

Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin (Telarc)

Veteran sidemen Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, 85, and Hubert Sumlin, 67, have spent most of their professional lives in the shadows of other performers. But far from seeming subservient to the masters they served, both Perkins, longtime pianist in Muddy Waters’s blues band, and Sumlin, whose electric guitar put the sting in Howlin’ Wolf’s gritty blues sound, were always compelling personalities in their own right, musicians whose skills have influenced three generations of players. After teaming up for a series of concert tours in the 1980s, the two met in a Portland, Maine, studio last spring to record these 11 blues standards by the likes of Willie Dixon, Elmore James and Jimmy Reed, as well as some originals by Sumlin (among them: a tribute to the gastronomic pleasures of “Pinto Beans and Black-eyed Peas”). While the duo’s vocal talents are not quite on a par with their gifts as instrumentalists, the two work together delightfully. Throughout the album guitars talk, the piano vamps, and the interplay between the two Mississippi Delta natives turned Chicago bluesmen makes these tunes swing.

Bottom Line: Two fine old bluesmen in the spotlight

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