Texas guitar prodigies the Peterson Brothers fuse the blues with soul, funk, and disco
by Greg Lemen
Freddie King’s “Hideaway” is blaring through Austin’s venerable Continental Club on a hot Texas summer night, just as numerous great musicians have played it many times before. Yet tonight something is different: the classic blues song morphs into funk, disco, and soul sounds via licks such as Parliament Funkadelic’s “Give Up the Funk,” Chic’s “Good Times,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman,” and Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies Night.” Even a bass line originating from the 1890s-era “The Streets of Cairo,” which some of us as children sang and giggled to the made-up lyrics of “there’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance…” weaves seamlessly through this blues sweet spot like a snake through tall grass. Drawing in ears from many years, and tracks from the distant past, this extended jam makes the listener wonder, who exactly is brewing up this melting pot of melodic Texas stew?
The answer, known by Austin music fans as well as the many blues greats who have taken them under their wings, is the Peterson Brothers Band from Bastrop, Texas. These brothers have become a household name around the Central Texas blues circuit. While they have shared stages and opened shows for such blues legends as Buddy Guy, BB King, and the late Pinetop Perkins, just to name a few, they have also ventured outside the blues standards and have been mentored by and opened for the likes of Bootsy Collins, Willie Nelson, and Lisa Marie Presley.
The sky is crying tears of rip-roaring joy for the collective future of Glenn Peterson, Jr, 18, and brother Alex, age 15. While the duo’s current set continues to astound audiences of all ages, the years ahead look to be paved with solid gold steeped in hard work, family, faith and respect. With their parents’ guidance, they have already achieved great experience and recognition. They are endorsed by Fender guitars and have their own Fender artist web page that touts the “Peterson Brothers” gear they use on stage. They have played such important shows as the world-renowned Chicago Blues Festival as well as the 20th Annual Stevie Ray Vaughan Remembrance Ride and Concert in Arlington, Texas. In April they opened for Willie Nelson at his 81st birthday bash, a grand honor bestowed by Willie himself. In October, the brothers shared a stage with the gospel group the Stapletones at the sold out 2014 Austin City Limits Festival. Along the way, the Peterson Brothers have impressed vast audiences who have gleefully approved and boosted their rapid ascent.
While Alex and Glenn Peterson Jr. are whipping the crowd into a frenzy with intricate and timely licks of different genres and solid bass lines, you get to witness two brothers competing with and challenging each other, as they trade leads. These two entertainers are sharing their fraternal passion for a hobby they found years ago and are turning it into their full-time pursuit. When piano lessons at an early age did not flavor their cup of tea, they tried guitar, violin and bass, and that’s when the kettle overflowed and whistled with steam like a freight train charging into a homecoming station. They make the listener love to hear and also see what is happening up on the stage: Glenn, Jr. with closed eyes and a wide smile is feeling every note while Alex is smacking his bass’s body, his shoulders undulating in perfect time with the beat. “Music for us is like soccer or football for someone else.” Glenn explains, “We just love what we do and this is our life.”
Alex counters, “We just seem to know and feel what the other is thinking instinctively.”
When you realize these two musicians are in high school, you may start to think that this is the future of blues due to their young age and extraordinary potential, but your ears remind you that this is also the present of blues with twists that touch on all of the other genres the boys grew up eagerly absorbing via YouTube, records and whatever they could get their ears on. True, they are the future of the blues, but sweetened with spicy influences while still maintaining respect for the recipe that helped get them here. And although they could be dubbed as already famous, the boys are growing right before your eyes into musician men. For their fans, experiencing this current, personal development of their stellar talent while it is still in its nascent yet professional form is enthralling.
Their travel must adhere to the school schedule, as Alex, a high school sophomore, and Glenn, a senior, keep on the books as well as the music. But when they have a chance to spread their band’s message far and wide, they do. On Thanksgiving break from school, they will be on an East Coast tour, visiting and playing for the very first time in Delaware at Saint Georges Country Store, New York City at the Hill Country Barbecue (famous for Texas blues), and at a private party in Washington D.C. (November 20th – 22nd respectively). In January 2015, The Peterson Brothers will set sail on the sold out Legendary Blues Cruise with Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal. And during Spring Break, they’re headed to Florida to play the Bonita Blues Festival.
For two polite southern young men who compete with brotherly love, musical passion, and one-upmanship since they first played “Amazing Grace” at the age of 5, The Peterson Brothers are now successfully engaging audiences of diverse ages, backgrounds and musical cultures with blues classics, home-cooked originals and a new album fermented with their own unique, 21st century style.
If you’re in New York tomorrow night, come see for yourself at Hill Country.
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