A few of you may know Paul. I met him over 20 years ago at Howard Levy's Augusta Heritage Master Class in W.V.
No doubt Paul is an original character - quirky, unusual and with a unique voice/harmonica sound.
At that time, he was interested in mixing Reggae w/harmonica, always pursuing his own inner voice.
Well, after 20 years, Paul has emerged with a project in which all his musical explorations have come together, along with amazing arranging concepts, true stellar sonic reproduction as well as a sterling cast of amazing musicians supporting his vision.
Let me set the stage with my own personal scenario...
Imagine it is the year 1959.
You are seated at a table with a bottle of cheap red wine, a cigarette glows red in the ashtray. The place; a smoky, dimly lit, seedy, little bar in Greenwich Village, New York.
A slight, bearded fellow with black sockets for eyes, listens to the rhythmic pounding of bongo drums.
A pallid, sullen, pouting girl in black stockings buries her head in a copy of HOWL.
A kid with a goatee, wearing tatty clothes, sandals and a beret smokes a bit of 'tea', and takes a long, heavy, luxurious draw of smoke.
A wide-eyed, red-eyed, streetwise, young, but old, Times square hustler surveys the scene. This is Herbert Huncke, one of the important figures in developing the Beat Generation of writers/poets/thinkers.
In comes Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, who gather with Herbert at a table to discuss America and their unique hipster vision.
Now, imagine that this bar is in the celestial heavens and the discussion turns to who will carry the torch.
In walks a young Bob Dylan, who volunteers to keep the flame alive in the early 60's and slightly beyond.
Next pops in a young Tom Waits, who declares that he will keep the hipster vision alive through his particular form of prose/poetry/music.
All nod in approval as the table expands.
However, all agree that no one has appeared in quite a while with a contemporary hipster version of America.
In the mean time, Bob Marley pokes his head in the door to mention that he added a world view of this hipsterism to include Jamaica. However, those at the table tell him they are really only interested in America, so Bob quickly retreats, leaving his musical contribution behind.
Suprisingly, Roger Waters walks in, tells the Collective that he has crafted a world view including religion and GOD in his "Amused to Death" project, as well as upping the studio concepts of creating soundscapes and telling a story. While the boys around the table enjoy this new sonic landscape, they all agree that is more world view than American. Roger leaves.
FInally, those around the table once again opine that no hipster has emerged with a new 21'st Century vision of America.
It is at this juncture that the door opens and Paul Messenger enters with his "America" CD.
"Ah, at last", sighs the Collective. "Pull up a chair, Paul, and join us".
Hence, my imagination sets the stage for a brief revue...
"America" is a concept CD about Paul's hipster version of contemporary life mixed with world music, Reggae, and Roger Waters/Pink Floyd sense of creating an aural world in which to drift. Updating hipsterism to include frustration with all the new digital learning challenges -"I've Got Device Dyslexia", irritating Yuppies "Psycho Yuppie", beatnik bongo players "Bongo Boy", white boys wanting to get funky on the weekend "The Balld of Roy and G", these statements serve as a satirical mirror reflecting contemporary US society.
Included is a packaging of the CD which is one of the best I've ever seen.
Harmonica is used throughout - not as a showcase, but in total support of the greater musical vision. (So you guys looking for the next big blues harmonica record may be disappointed, but the rest of you searching for the next big thing including harmonica as a part of the big picture will be elated).
The music moves from authentic Americana through Reggae, total Funk Workout, Rap, tender ballads and more, all done confidently.
Paul's vocals are quirky and somehow endearing, with plenty of grunts, whoops, etc, not too unlike Michael Jackson's high pitched "woo's" puntuated his songs. Paul's harmonica playing has its own unique sweet vibrato sound and is (at least to me), easily recognized after a few notes.
For the harmonica addicted, I must mention that Joe Filisko is used as a special guest on a few tracks, giving his signature brand of old style sound to the mix.
This CD is for repeated listening, so one may sink into this new original artistic vision and discover more as time goes on.
One can listen on many levels - to appreciate the astounding sonic quality alone, to explore the sophisticated and unique arrangements of the songs, to get into the lyrics which tell a story, and even to enjoy some unique harmonica playing sprinkled throughout.
I feel this is the long awaited next step in a landscape of music that has been stagnant for so long. Definitely one of my Desert Island CD picks.
Well worth the time and investment to check out for yourselves.
(The first two tracks from this CD)
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/paulmessinger ---------- The Iceman
Last Edited by The Iceman on Nov 16, 2014 10:49 AM
I agree with Iceman. This is an example of what could be "modern harmonica", not to be confused with modern blues harmonica.
It is a wonderful recording, on a level I have never been part of.
I can see where many will not find it to their liking. The only thing that ran through my mind is that I did not hear a "hook" in either recordings. I can see where that can be debated as a plus or minus, but I would say a recognizable hook would have been a commercial benefit. ---------- theharmonicaclub.com (of Huntington, WV)
Paul is a great guy. Met him on Facebook and we talk quite often. He is always quick to tell you what he likes and how he thinks you could maybe improve a track. But he also loves to hear new stuff. And he does have a unique sound.
Some great sounding music, very theatrical, puts me in mind of some of the Cirque Du Soleil music, all encompassing, worldly. Also some really great harmonica sounds there, reminding me of how rich an instrument the harp can be in master hands!