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Album Review

PAUL CURRERI
California

MOJO
Velvet Rut Review

FIVE STARS
Superb fifth album from Virginia’s best kept secret.
 
Why Paul Curreri is not better known is a mystery, but if it is this fifth album that brings him the attention he deserves, that’s no bad thing; his talent has had time to mellow and ripen, but these songs still sparkle like stars on a cold night.  On the one hand, Curreri plays six-stringed blues with a dexterity that puts him in line with John Fahey and Davy Graham.  On the other, his rough-brushed voice, like his lyrics, is unaffected and romantic – as well as some great swearing, there is stamping and banging, and a filthy, red-eyed opening track.  With his instinctive, sensual gift for melody, Curreri’s songs are saturated in colour and feeling, the sonic equivalent of William Eggleston’s photography.  Simple, yes, but you just can’t get enough of it.

I am looking for inspiration, and I need it because it is seldom one runs across a musician as talented and creative as Paul Curreri. Delve deep into his music and you find yourself pealing back layer after layer and wonder how music so simple can be so complex. I came upon Curreri five albums in (with The Velvet Rut) and as I stepped back one album at a time, I scratched my head and mentally mouthed those very same words in the MOJO review--- Why Paul Curreri is not better known is a mystery. If this new album does not do the trick, the mystery deepens, leaving critics and fans alike shaking heads, I am sure.

Read the MOJO review again, think more and better and you have California, Curreri's sixth entry in the Grammy Sweepstakes. Like The Velvet Rut, it is all Curreri (with the exception of a Devon Sproule vocal cameo), recorded by Curreri in his home studio. I know. It seems like everyone for one reason or another is doing that these days. Unlike the others, though, Curreri has the talent and the vision to really pull it off, each and every track treated with unfailing and masterful touch. Some songs embed themselves into the psyche immediately, plucking chords on the inside, familiar yet new. Others require that process of pealing layers, more to understand how he does what he does than to understand the song. And he makes you want to understand. He's that good.

He is also deceptive. His love songs go way beyond love (I Can't Return)--- way beyond the mundane, and by using the mundane, oddly enough (Here Comes Another Morning)--- way beyond today (Wildegeeses)--- way into tomorrow with a look to the past (I Can Hear the Future Calling). The deception is in the presentation. Mostly acoustic and seemingly simple, each song takes on an aura all its own, carried beyond the norm by phrasing, exceptional musicianship, lyrics--- real lyrics and not just words meant to rhyme or not to rhyme--- and amazing attention to detail. Throughout the album, a really close listen opens up a whole world of sound you miss otherwise. This is not sound you get from multi-million dollars of equipment. It's the sound you get from the simple placement of mikes, percussive effects of fingers on guitar, juxtaposition of contrary sounds. Curreri, like all artists, probably thinks about what could have been (they are never satisfied), but he cannot deny that every note, every sound, is there for a reason.

There is a reason that California, the track, is the title track of the album, but for the life of me I can't tell you why. Split basically into two parts, the first a semi-Coplandesque approach to music without the traditional themes, the second a melodic end built upon layers, it begs multiple hearings and I find myself enjoying it more with each one.

Look. I'm not saying everyone will embrace Paul Curreri at first, or at all. I am saying that there are only a handful who can accomplish what Curreri has here. There is a freedom to this album, to this music, that is all but lost in today's world of music. It is adventure. If you choose not to listen, that's your loss.

California is now available on Tin Angel (UK) and self-distributed in the States through CDbaby. Devon Sproule's new album, Don't Hurry For Heaven, has also been released on Tin Angel (UK) and Black Hen Records (Canada and the States). I couldn't be more pleased. It's like Christmas all over again.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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