The Devil's Music
Red House Records
A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
It's been said that when folklorists tracked down country blues legend Mance Lipscomb, he treated them with a rather uninspired rendition of St Louis Blues because he assumed that it was a white person's approximation of the blues. When asked by the folklorists if he could play a song that proved their familiarity with the genre, he is reported to have said, "Oh, well then, you want to hear the real stuff." Paul Geremia is, for everyone who has ever heard him, a true living example of "the real stuff."
Paul Geremia is a one-of-a-kind artist. A true historian of the country blues, he is able to present the genre in its most honest and uncontaminated state. On top of all this, he can even add to the dialogue with his exceptional musicianship and songwriting skills. The Devil's Music is Geremia's latest entry, loaded with examples of his brilliance. Split between seven originals and eight covers, Geremia is such an authentic performer that the difference is virtually indecipherable. Geremia's own If a Woman's Love was Whisky, is such a song, with 12-string guitar a la Blind Willie McTell, and lyrics featuring the classic rambler's wit. The extent of Geremia's songcraft is extraordinary, with his masterful 12-string guitar workouts and boogie-woogie piano playing. His expert harmonica work almost threatens to draw attention away from his intelligent and entertaining lyrics, at equal turns hilarious, as in How'd He Do It?, and sober, as in Little Silver Airplane. To hear this man compose original classics is truly a magnificent experience.
The covers here are nothing to be ashamed of either, from Henry Glover's beautiful ballad, Drown In My Own Tears, to a foot tapping version of Tampa Red's "The Way to Get the Lowdown." His cover of Blind Willie McTell's Statesboro Blues puts to shame every other version I've ever heard, and the way he nails Robert Johnson's polyrhythmic guitar playing on Terraplane is worth the price of the album alone.
At a time when mainstream rock and roll seems to be inching ever closer to divorcing itself from its blues heritage, it does one's heart good to know there are artists like Paul Geremia preserving the pure country blues and laying the groundwork for revival movements well into the 21st century. Sadly, most of the world never got to hear Mance Lipscomb and many of his contemporaries. Luckily, Paul Geremia is still making albums that reaffirm the legacy of "the real stuff."
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz