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 If you're a British blues guitar player and you can have a photo on your debut album cover which shows three guitarists in the studio together, you've got to feel pretty chuffed if the two extra guitarists are Bert Jansch and Eric Clapton. It's a huge recommendation of Paul Wassif's talent, which has seen him journey from the youthful blast of punk rock to this beautifully mellow and expressive country blues style. 

        Playing acoustic, electric and slide guitar (with a bit of banjo and dobro along the way), Paul Wassif's style on every instrument slips down like the very smoothest of whiskies, till you feel happily suffused by the mood he engenders: this is a very healing sort of blues, a place to rest your worries for a while.  The notes flow easily and beautifully from one to the next and he's one of those musicians who always seems to have time in hand, floating with the feel of the music, never rushed at all.

        More than half of this album consists of songs and tunes written or co-written by Paul Wassif and his theme seems to be that when the troubles come in life, take your time, don't despair - and in all times be true to the people who matter to you. In the liner notes, there's a heartfelt dedication to the people closest to him ("without you I'd have nothing to give, with you, I've got nothing to lose") that captures the tone of his writing perfectly. Apparently, Paul works as a counsellor for a charity, Rehabilitation of Addicted Prisoners Trust, and it's easy to imagine how that work would inform his songwriting, as well as how much playing this music would give him the space to come to terms with the troubled lives that he's involved with.

        The old songs covered here include two railroad songs (900 Miles  and Big Bill Broonzy's Southbound Train), but it's fair to say that Paul's own songs stand up really well, especially Please Don't Leave, one of the songs that features assistance from Messrs Jansch and Clapton. There's a knack for a beautiful melody in Paul's music, which runs from the direct pull on the heartstrings in Please Don't Leave  to the elegant flow of his instrumentals - which have a definitely English pastoral beauty to my ears.  The only thing that undermines this album is the reticence of Paul's vocals; it's a whisky and cigarettes voice that suits the music fine but he never seems strong enough to really take charge of the song - we have to strain a little to catch what sometimes sounds like an apologetic murmur, and it feels like there's a bigger voice in there somewhere just waiting to be let off the leash.  That guitar playing, though: you'd forgive a lot to hear the beauty in Paul Wassif's playing and it's easy to see why his big name mates encouraged him to strike out on his own.

 

John Davy

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April 2018

1
Courtney Marie Andrews
100 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
PK,CVL,DHO,JB,LK
2
Mary Gauthier
59 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
3
Caleb Caudle
49 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
TJ,TK,MP
4
Western Centuries
48 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
DD,GS,FS,HM
5
Vivian Leva
44 pts.
Time is Everything
Free Dirt Records
 
6
Ed Romanoff
42 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
7
Grant Peeples
41 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental
AN
8
Joan Baez
32 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
 
9
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
29 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
MF,HDB
 
Sam Morrow
29 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
JV
11
Chris Smither
27 pts.
Call Me Lucky
Signature Sounds
JSM,JD
12
Michael McDermott
26 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
CRS
13
John Prine
24 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
SP
14
Mary Chapin Carpenter
23 pts.
Sometimes Just The Sky
Lambent Light Records
 
15
Dean Owens
22 pts.
Southern Wind
At The Helm
PJ
16
6 String Drag
21 pts.
Top of The World
Schoolkids Records
FCE,JS
 
Haley Heynderickx
21 pts.
I Need To Start A Garden
Mama Bird Recordings
 
 
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
21 pts.
Tearing At The Seams
Stax Records
RM
19
Abe Partridge
20 pts.
Cotton Fields And Blood For Days
Skate Mountain
MVP,RK
 
Adam James Sorensen
20 pts.
Dust Cloud Refrain
Continental Song City
BM
 
Ben Reel
20 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
 
 
Chip Taylor
20 pts.
Fix Your Words
Train Wreck Records
LM
 
Kesia Nagata
20 pts.
Looking For Horses
Caramal Productions
GC,EZ
 
Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son
20 pts.
Clear The Table
SepiaPhone Records
SZ,PG
25
3hattrio
18 pts.
Lord of the Desert
Okehdokee Records
 
 
Marlon Williams
18 pts.
Make Way for Love
Dead Oceans

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