Guitar great (and Juno Award winner) Paul James has a new CD out, appropriately called Lost in the Blues. This CD is completely new and "all-original" Paul James songs that do justice to his creativity as a songwriter and his imaginative talent as both a guitarist, singer and "ear" for picking the right people to back him in his Paul James Band.
The title track "Lost In The Blues" opens this highly enjoyable and upbeat CD, with its catchy lyrics, guitar riffs and vocals. Gary Gray’s keyboard playing is a highlight and adds much to this song. Next up is "Cut You Loose," a medium-tempo blues ballad which again features a mouthwatering piano solo by Gray. He has been with Paul’s band for over 25 years and has an instinctive feel for the "James" trademark "sound," which audiences far and wide know and love and come out to hear in droves at Paul’s many live show dates per year, including the packed house for Paul’s CD release party for ‘Lost .... ’ at Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse here in Toronto, across from Wayne Gretsky’s place on Blues Jays Way, north of the Rogers Centre.
Paul’s leads on the "Lost .... " title track are uplifting, and blend well with his lead vocals, which have a tinge of the old Bob Dylan’s tone, but are James’ own familiar style and always hit the mark! Incidentally, Paul has performed with Dylan at his shows several times over the years. Dylan has even been known to show up at Paul’s own gigs when he’s in town and perform with him. The same can be said for roots blues master John Hammond, who is a close friend of Paul’s.
Wild rockabilly guitar licks are the featured intro to Paul’s "Boogie Woogie Baby" ("She’s my barrelhouse BBQ.") Gray takes over with energetic piano soloing, after which drummer Henry De Clemente plays a melodic beat on the skins that seems to "sing" the lyrics. (De Clemente is a familiar face to this writer who attended many of his performances over the years with The Bottle Devils. TBD’s featured Gus Papas and Alec Fraser sharing lead and rhythm guitar duties with De Clemente rockin’ it on drums along with ex-John Lee Hooker sideman Leo Valvassori on bass.)
Paul’s "Chuck Berry"-style leads on "Boogie .... " come in a little later in this song and add to the "party all-night" atmosphere of this totally original Paul James composition.
"Bull Calf Blues" is something like the old "Milk Cow Blues," but with the James "magic touch" of originality coming through on vocals and guitar. Alec Fraser’s bass lines are pumpin’ on this one, as is Gray’s always-enjoyable juke-joint-style barrelhouse piano solos. Paul’s blues harp playing is also outstanding on this number, as is De Clemente always-enjoyable talent on the skins.
"Rockin’ The Blues Away" can do just what it says in the title. This "rockin’ little ditty" sure has what it takes to get a dance floor cookin’ the same as the Paul James Band does consistently onstage at every concert this writer has seen Paul play at. The "Chuck Berry feel" is contagious and makes this writer wish he was at a Paul James show right now instead of at home on this "non-musical" keyboard. Rock ‘n roll is definitely still alive and well on this awesome James original!!! This infectious and highly energetic pace continues with "Little Girl" ("you’re makin’ eyes at me"). This is the next best thing to a live James performance. His outstanding, lively leads show off well on this one, as does the whole band’s awesomely energetic backup.
Things become laid back in a true bluesy way when Paul declares "I’m Going Fishing" ("in my best fishing hole"). De Clemente’s talent on drums as well as Gray’s keyboards and Fraser’s bass lines are totally "in the pocket" on this one, finding their own blues "fishing hole" to pull a winner out of. Paul’s blues harp playing comes in just at the right time to lighten the pace a little part way through. Of course Paul’s "fish" has a little "lemon squeezed on it" courtesy of the "Robert Johnson "blues" Cookbook," c. 1928. This is followed by "You Don’t Love Me," a medium-tempo blues that moves along nicely and serves to highlight the strength of Paul’s gifted backup band, all of whom are the "cream of the crop" of Canadian blues artists.
Bassist Fraser is currently part of the Jeff Healey Band and tours with him. Fraser also performed for years with Juno Award winning guitarist Jack de Keyzer as well as Muddy Waters’ drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. He is also an award-winning sound engineer and producer who co-produced this ‘Lost .... ’ CD with Paul and engineered it at his Liquid Toronto recording studio, after which it was mastered by Andy Krehm (who works with all the biggies in the biz) at Silverbirch Productions in Toronto.
The "Boogie" comes in hard and strong on this next one entitled "Love Changin’ Blues." Paul’s boogie guitar riffs heard here capture the feel of a south-side Chicago blues joint and keep it there. John Lee Hooker could be dancing onstage with his guitar to this one if he heard it (or can maybe) up in "Blues Heaven," the same way he did with Muddy Waters live outdoors at Newport in 1960. Paul’s slide is heard and "felt" on this one, just like with any of the old masters who were the originators ... like some who Paul used to sit in with, such as Robert Jr. Lockwood and Honeyboy Edwards and other notable, world-class blues impresarios.
Seems like an "Anywhere at all place, from palace to alleyway" when "The Blues Walk In," ("and gotcha in that downward spin") as Paul so aptly describes it in this song of the same name. "Like The Girl I Had Before" has a bit of a "fiesta" Latin beat to it, like a trip south of the border to any "border town" drinking hole with its own "Mexicali Rose."
"Jitterbug Swing" jives it up in high gear, just like old time swingin’ dances in the 40s and 50s did (that my mom so often described)! Paul’s scorching guitar riffs at times blend well and are a nice contrast with his vocals, which come through remarkably clear and lyrically descriptive.
"Trick Or Treat" is Paul’s bluesy answer to the "fun and games" at "Halloween." This upbeat number has the feel of party tunes heard in late ‘50s/early ‘60s movies like Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959) and other great old "drive-in" classics of the time. The nostalgic and heartwarming mood of an old-fashioned Halloween party atmosphere from days gone by is captured with fun and vigor by the strong rhythm section harmony backing Paul describing "The girl I met at the party." This Halloween novelty song is also featured with another called "It’s Halloween" on Paul’s Halloween novelty CD of the same name from 2004. Both songs are a featured part of Paul’s website annually every Halloween. http://www.jazzreview.com/cd/review-17241.html
Paul’s closing tune "Rosie" (dedicated to Paul’s "Rose," as this CD is too), is a medium-tempo love ballad with a Latin influenced rhythm that showcases Paul’s romantic vocals and entrancing blues harp playing. Its ending drifts off like there’s more to come on the "blues horizon," which there definitely is at each and every Paul James Band concert or solo shows Paul performs at. And, of course, on this awesome and very live-sounding Lost In The Blues CD as well as all of Paul James’ CD’s he has recorded for his fans over the ensuing decades. The enthusiasm never lets up with Paul James, either live or on CD, and that’s one thing his fans can always count on, including this writer.