13 Songs, 47 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Paul Curreri’s sixth album California is a work of contradictions — its tunes are both ragged and refined, its lyrics quirky but serious. What is clear-cut is its sharp intelligence and rambunctious spirit, served up by Curreri with a street busker’s unpretentious charm. Much of California feels like a beatnik travelogue, especially the propulsive, sung-spoken “Here Comes Another Morning” and the nicely ramshackle “Now I Can Go On.” Curreri combines a growly but supple vocal presence with a shimmering acoustic guitar touch reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn. He reaches for visionary heights in the title tune and taps into a deep bluesy vein in “The Line.” There’s a traditional side to his music as well, heard in the woozy waltz “Tight Pack Me Sugar” and the camp-meeting gospel number “Down By the Water.” California is filled with surreal, almost goofy wordplay (see “Once Upon a Rooftop”), but tracks like “I Can’t Return” likewise display great honesty and tenderness. Curreri’s wife Devon Sproule joins him for a haunting duet on Michael Hurley’s “Wildegeeses.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Paul Curreri’s sixth album California is a work of contradictions — its tunes are both ragged and refined, its lyrics quirky but serious. What is clear-cut is its sharp intelligence and rambunctious spirit, served up by Curreri with a street busker’s unpretentious charm. Much of California feels like a beatnik travelogue, especially the propulsive, sung-spoken “Here Comes Another Morning” and the nicely ramshackle “Now I Can Go On.” Curreri combines a growly but supple vocal presence with a shimmering acoustic guitar touch reminiscent of Bruce Cockburn. He reaches for visionary heights in the title tune and taps into a deep bluesy vein in “The Line.” There’s a traditional side to his music as well, heard in the woozy waltz “Tight Pack Me Sugar” and the camp-meeting gospel number “Down By the Water.” California is filled with surreal, almost goofy wordplay (see “Once Upon a Rooftop”), but tracks like “I Can’t Return” likewise display great honesty and tenderness. Curreri’s wife Devon Sproule joins him for a haunting duet on Michael Hurley’s “Wildegeeses.”

TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

4.8 out of 5
5 Ratings
5 Ratings
Robert Rolfe Feddersen

Cool Record

I like artists that just do their thing without sounding like they're trying. Paul is very natural. Laid back yet throwin' down. This is a cool record. Drove to northern Michigan listening to it.

southpawscribe.com

Haunting and Brilliant

(Originally posted 11.06.2009, this review was orphaned when album re-posted for US release in March 2010.)

On California, Paul Curreri captures that moment at dusk when sunlight slips through window slats, freeze-framing dust motes, preserving in an amber sap that sense of rightness after a hard-played day. This is a beautiful, haunting, brilliant work. There’s a coat of brightness to the songs, but be careful: they have a deceptive depth and undertow that will pull you beneath their velvety surface. You’ll go willingly.

The fun starts with “Now I Can Go On,” with a little piano punching Paul’s acoustic fretwork. It’s at first familiar, traditional even, but listen to what he’s doing with those chords, how they spin out and find the pavement again, adding a sense of danger and delight to the ride. “Once upon a rooftop” has harp and hand-claps and Paul’s innovative wordplay (“…and you woke with a soul prosthesis…”) and more of those crazy subliminal chords worked into the melody. “Here Comes Another Morning” ups the ante with snap-claps-on-crack. “Tight Pack Me Sugar” is indulgent stream-of-consciousness Paul that you can forgive just because it’s so much fun to look at the world through his eyes without filter.

Then there’s the anchor of the album, the title track. “Too few folks know how fun it is / to believe invisible stuff like this,” he starts. As he describes what it’s like “to drift among the untied knots,” his fingerpicking and otherworldly vocals work like a sonic incense. The production on this is lovely: somewhat demo-like, it creates a feeling like someone is sitting in the next room, telling stories, showing family pictures. The song stands on its own, but do check out the video on his website. Directed by his wife, Devon Sproule (a daring, revelatory musician in her own right), the video intimately tangles with the song like a Saturday morning wrestling match. I love how it fades into the recorded crackles of the fire at the end.

The second half of the album glides on the same wistful trajectory, even with a WTF moment at the end of “I Can Hear The Future Calling,” when he delivers the final lyric with a perplexing drone: somehow the spirit of the song stands up, despite Paul’s own sabotage. Balance is immediately restored, rather symbolically, on the next track, “Wildegeeses,” when Devon offers harmonies. (There’s a great backstory there with these artists. Check out their Valentine duets sometime if you can find them.) In the next track, Paul declares with trademark guileless bravado, “I wish every man and woman could kiss my wife: my friends, you are looking at a man who is honestly saved.” In some ways, Paul sets us up here, having started the damnation-redemption-reflection theme of these three songs with “When What You Do Don’t Do It Anymore,” another great piece of wordplay.

This album is just as ambitious as 2007’s The Velvet Rut, but more immediately accessible. (I personally loved Velvet Rut, in part because it showed his artist’s soul and willingness to chase after, even be eviscerated by, musical ideas.) At first listen, California is closer to albums like Songs for Devon Sproule or From Long Gones to Hawkmoth, but man, as solid as those albums are, as creatively energizing and inspiring, there’s something about California’s seasoned-yet-reborn vibe that will make this a soundtrack you want to live your life by. Paul, of course, describes it best (from “Down By The Water,” the final track): “One foot in the finite, one foot in the divine.” Indeed.

These are the book-end tracks (this album is expertly sequenced, incidentally): “Stephen Crane” * “California” * “Down By The Water”

L0NEW01F

Great!

Just downloaded the album and my initial impressions are that the songs on here are very well written, diverse musically with various vocal approaches as well. Paul plays extremely well and his music seems very real and alive. I enjoyed it tremendously and I am looking forward to really sinking my teeth into this work.

Kenny Clayton

About Paul Curreri

b. 1976, Seattle, Washington, USA. Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife Devon Sproule, this folk blues artist established a cult following in the early 00s with a series of highly literate singer-songwriter albums. Raised in Richmond, Virginia, Curreri studied painting and film at Rhode Island School of Design while continuing to pursue a long-held passion for the guitar and songwriting. He chose to work as a musician following graduation, and got his first break in 2001 as a touring companion for Kelly Joe Phelps. The independent label City Salvage released Curreri’s From Long Gones To Hawkmoth in 2002, and the album was quickly picked up the Americana musical community as one of the finest debuts of the year. The follow-up, Songs For Devon Sproule, was closer in nature to the sparse acoustic settings that Curreri favoured in concert.

In the mid-00s, Curreri completed two superb studio albums, The Spirit Of The Staircase (2004) and The Velvet Rut (2007), which showcased his remarkable acoustic and electric playing and revealed a lyrical depth far beyond most of his contemporaries. He also released the live album Are You Going To Paul Curreri.

HOMETOWN
Seattle, WA
BORN
1976

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