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Paul Curreri: In His Own House, on Folk & Beyond

Paul Curreri: In His Own House
  Folk & Beyond with Aer Stephen
Thursday August 5, 2010, 6:00 PM

Paul Curreri photo by Todd Hale

For a singer, a vocal-cord injury is nothing short of devastating. Still, the song writing didn’t stop. Since Paul Curreri rolled into town as the last of the leaves stubbornly clung to the newly barren branches at the beginning of this century, no artist has appeared on Folk & Beyond as many times as he. I heard Paul for the first time that November when he strolled in with his brother, Matt, to play at the Acoustic Open Stage I hosted once a month at The Prism. "Senseless As A Cockoo" was the first offering and I was floored. He followed up with "Long Gone" and was anything but. Paul Curreri was just getting started. He’s back. Healed... but perhaps still pained. Primed for the hometown release concert for his new CD, California, this Saturday, August 7, 8 PM at the Jefferson Theater, Paul will be backed by Sam Wilson (guitar) & Todd Wellons (drums) from Sons of Bill, and Jonathan Mills on bass. Nathan Moore will open. Please join me for the return of a minstrel of the world, as Folk & Beyond goes on location to Paul’s home studio to bring you some in depth perspectives from one of our home town talents, and also preview music from an even newer project that is now "in the can."
~ Aer Stephen

“Well, what year isn’t a bitch?” Curreri laughs when asked about the vocal-cord injury he sustained in July of 2008. For the first time since he earnestly began touring in 2002, he was forced off the road. “I bought an old motorcycle. I ignored Facebook. I made California.”

Internationally acclaimed as a songwriter, guitarist, and producer (Curreri helmed five or six albums this year alone, including wife Devon Sproule’s new release ¡Don't Hurry For Heaven!), California finds Curreri back in his Virginia studio, again handling all the instruments himself, as he did on his critically heralded previous effort, 2007’s The Velvet Rut (“A riveting trip. His best yet.” – Uncut “These songs sparkle like stars on a cold night. 5 STARS" – MOJO).

But a baton has been passed. Atop a circular and unworldly guitar riff, the title cut begins, “Too few folks know how fun it is / To believe in invisible stuff like this.” The Velvet Rut’s joyously pissed snarl has evolved into an undercurrent of something larger, something downright hopeful, unabashedly appreciative to be downstream from some rough stuff. Check the bridge of the opening track, “Now I Can Go On”: “I can not forget deciphering the most horrifying of certainties / Where any illness I was suffering from was a twisted arm behind me. / And there were killers. Real killers! / And I was unaccompanied. / But now I’m leaning toward your finding me / And making new memories.” He repeats that word: “memmmmories,” then hollers, exploding into a breathtakingly eventful solo section.

At 13 tracks, California covers a lot of sonic ground. From the opening track’s pounding piano drive, to the near uncomfortable honesty and simplicity of “I Can Never Return,” Curreri fastballs a lot of sticky ideas at the wall. There’s a fully improvised, fully belted, and fully unintelligible blues bash. Another number, “Off the Street, Onto The Road,” opens with a phone conversation between Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb. On the only track to feature a guest, Devon Sproule shows up for a gorgeous duet take on Michael Hurley’s “Wildegeeses.” “Down By The Water” finds Paul revisiting his film-editing days with a special video. Curreri even throat-sings at the tail of “I Can Hear The Future Calling.” It’s a damn blast, and as life-affirming as a Bob Marley album.

“Oh man, here and there, all this forced time off whirlwinded me. I wasn’t sure if I was a musician or a soccer mom or a bed bug,” he admits over the phone, picking his guitar in the background. “But sometimes… it almost felt like a blessing. I realized certain junk isn’t permanently within me, that there’s peace to be found relatively close by, that some degree of – I don’t know – grace is attainable, even if it kinda comes and goes.” With a deeply rooted guitar style – seemingly flecked by Gary Davis, Frisell, Ali Farka, Ribot – this September, Paul was invited to travel to Kenya to participate in a collaboration between Western and African musicians. “Just got my shots… I was very brave,” he says proudly. Upon his return, in addition to guesting on telecaster for Devon Sproule’s October run, Curreri toured the UK with his English trio for the first two weeks of November to celebrate California’s European release. The tour wrapped up with 3 nights at London’s Betsey Trotwood.

Last, when asked how he managed to create such a forward-leaning, positive album while dealing with what many would regard as a career and personal crisis, a long moment passes before he replies. “Well,” he says, “we all live with hardship and crisis. But maybe it’s the price paid for being surrounded by and involving oneself with only what feels authentic and important. I get to play music, even if – yeah – on occasion it’s just at home. But I sometimes wonder if fishing for more doesn’t rip something from someone who – for better or worse – wants or needs it more deeply.”
Reprinted with permission.

California

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