Possessed By Paul James

Possessed By Paul James
Feed the Family

Hillgrass Bluebilly Records

By Elliott Morehardt
January 2011

I’m no musician, but I know great music when I hear it. I also know soul when I hear it, and I got an earful of both from the new Possessed by Paul James (PPJ) CD Feed the Family (soon to come out in vinyl!)

My first real taste of PPJ was on the recent Hiram and Huddie cover compilation from Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, and among the songs that are all gems, PPJ’s sticks in your head just a bit more. Possessed by Paul James is one of many young artists putting renewed energy into a flabby folk scene, with their deep respect for and fresh interpretation of traditional folk/blues.

Feed the Family is Possessed by Paul James’ newest and most mature work to date. You can feel the years, the tears, and the fears come to full fruition within a wide array of musical intricacies, driven by this young artist’s powerful vision. Feed the Family may just be a landmark work for both him and the burgeoning deep-roots movement, which is deserving of more notice in the public eye.

The first track, “Four Men from the Road,” cranks it up with high-energy, complex rhythms as it lulls you into a hard, somber tale of a man’s last walk in prison. Whether going to meet his maker or going back home, it all feels eerily similar in this beautifully crafted song.

Killer lyrics in “Old Man Souls” (an ode to Johnny Cash) like “dressed in black and on the attack across the USA,” and “no young man’s shoes gonna fill those old man’s souls.” They come off as totally spontaneous with a re-energized inspiration from folklore, which is typically tired and dusty, but not this time.

There’s some real dark stuff here also, namely two must-hear songs, “When It Breaks” and “Color of My Bloody Nose” (the folk version of the F.U. song). Both of these songs have strong imagery, not just from the lyrics, but from those magical moments when the musician seamlessly translates his deepest feelings through his instrument and vocals. While “Breaks” pulls you into its dark state, the last track, “Color of My Bloody Nose,” could leave you gasping a bit, and that just makes this humbled writer want to re-load the CD for another listen.

It’s not all darkness, though, folks ... both the title track, “Feed the Family” and “We Welcome You Home” are heart-warming and full of hope, still edgy, and as spirited as any song from the master Woody Guthrie. Nor is the record all esoteric. There’s a song with commercial potential in “Shoulda’ Known Better.” It’s what all country music should aspire to be, but then, pipe dreams can be eternal.

True to his name, the artist may be a bit possessed by his demons and angels, so be prepared. Feed the Family is pure infectious wonder to the discerning folk/blues aficionado, and it only gets better with every listen. Pick up Possessed by Paul James’ new CD now or you can always hear about it later in the annals of American folk music history!

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