Peterson on a roll

Clean and sober, Ronnie Peterson is readier than ever to rock on.

Ronnie Peterson 390 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ronnie Peterson 390
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ronnie Peterson has been called, on more than one occasion, our “King of the Blues.” While that flattering epithet may not be far from the truth, it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.
“I come from rock and roll,” says the 50something Tel Aviv-based guitarist-vocalist. “That’s what gets me going; that’s my roots.”
In case anyone still has any doubts about his musical bedrock, it’s all there in suitably pockmarked yellow lettering in the name of Peterson’s brand new album – Rock ‘n’ Roll Warrior.
German-born US-raised Peterson is currently in the middle of a round of gigs to showcase the new album, with the next performance taking place tomorrow evening (doors open 8:30 p.m.) at Ozen Bar in Tel Aviv.
The official launch show took place at Zappa Club in Herzliya last week, with Shalom Hanoch making a guest appearance.
This is Peterson’s fourth offering as leader, and it follows a relatively protracted recording hiatus.
“I guess it’s been about six years since Red Alert came out. It’s been coming for a long time,” he notes.
But as a wise Indian musician once noted, things happen when they happen, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Warrior finds Peterson in fine musical and personal fettle.
“I haven’t had a drink for three years, and I don’t smoke pot anymore,” he declares, adding that his clean-up has also had some added social benefits. “The funny thing is that I get out a lot more, now that I don’t drink. I used to get wasted at home.”
Peterson is obviously rejuvenated by his healthier approach to life, and he lets it all hang on Rock ‘n’ Roll Warrior with bucketloads of energy.
“This is really the first, mostly original, rock and roll album I’ve ever done. This is a big change. Usually my albums were mostly blues covers with a couple of originals. There’s no real blues on this record.”
That said, the blues make their presence felt everywhere on the CD.
“Of course, there’s a lot of blues in there – The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Cream; it’s always there. But this is pretty much straight up rock and roll.”
Peterson’s “Hey Hey (I Feel Alright)” certainly appears to owe much to the Jagger-Richards songwriting mindset.
“A lot of people hear a lot of different things in there. For my, money there are five or six direct inferences or quotes. The opening line where I sing ‘Feeling good, I’m feeling alright, it’s Saturday night’ – that’s straight out of [early 1970s rock group] Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘I’m an American Band.’ And then [backing vocalist and frontman of Israeli funk metal band Betzefer] Avital [Tamir] sings with me ‘Why can’t I have me a woman like you?’ That’s a kind of a play on [1970s Australian singer-songwriter] Rick Springfield, and I think the chorus was probably inspired by something on The Rolling Stones’s album Saturday Night. There’s also something I probably took from Paul Rodgers and [British rock supergroup] Bad Company. The list goes on and on.”
In fact, there’s some actual corporeal Stones input in Rock ‘n’ Roll Warrior, with Darryl Jones on bass which, naturally, is a source of great joy and pride for Peterson.
“Darryl played with the Stones for about 20 years. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The new album includes 11 tracks, with no less than nine selfpenned.
The covers includes The Beatles’s madcap outing “Helter Skelter,” on which Peterson spits out the lyrics in right royal feral fashion, and a balladic – at least in terms of the predominantly bare-knuckled spirit of the album – outing on “Just a Girl I Used to Know,” which was originally a gentle country song written and recorded by Cowboy Jack Clement.
Elsewhere, Peterson offers up some of his trademark rough and ready observations about life, and himself, such as on “Sweet Daughters of Satan,” but he also reveals a more introspective side to his ethos, like in the torch-like song “Forever Mine”.
Besides the heavyweight presence of Jones, Peterson has plenty of topnotch support from long-serving drummer Asher Fedi, young vocalist Stephanie Singer, Tamir, who is joined by the rest of the Betzefer band to drive “Helter Skelter” at a suitably ferocious pace, and the leader’s 18-year-old guitarplaying son Eric Dylan Peterson.
“I’m very proud of Eric,” says Peterson Sr. “That solo he does on ‘Wake Up Call’ is a killer. He just came up with that.”
However, the youngster hasn’t been able to join his dad on the current tour.
“Three days after the recording, Eric went into the army into a combat unit. He could have shirked that, but he said he wanted to serve his country, and I really admire him for that.”
But dad Ronnie feels that Eric will have plenty to offer the local rock scene in years to come.
“I’m sure he’ll come out of the army a better person and a better musician.” Watch this space.
More than anything, Peterson is just happy to be who he is, doing what he does best, and with his new-found healthier approach to life and himself, he says his music has hit the fast lane.
“These are the tunes that came through me, so I can’t argue with them. I think the songs come from the universe or God or something, through the artist. [Bob] Dylan said that too, and [Rolling Stones lead guitarist] Keith Richards also says that in his autobiography [Life], that the songs are out there in the air, and you’ve just got to pluck them. He said, ‘I have no idea where this s*** comes from.’ I don’t either,” admits Peterson.
Wherever the material for Rock ‘n’ Roll Warrior came from, it will definitely get your toes tapping and the rest of you shaking, and there will probably be more where that came from in the not too distant future.
“I’ve already got two or three tunes inside my head for the next record,” says Peterson.
As we said, watch this space.
Ronnie Peterson will perform at the Ozen Bar in Tel Aviv tomorrow night (Saturday) at 8:30 p.m.