Paul Filipowicz – Unfiltered
Big Jake Records (Self Released)
Rough around the edges. Visceral. Gutsy. These are apt descriptors for the Chicago Blues Hall of Famer Paul Filipowicz. There is no room for wimps here- this is dirty, steaming hot Chicago blues served up to any listener brave enough to jump on the ride. Break those filters off your smokes- there is no way to protect yourself from inhaling this great stuff!
Filipowicz now hails from Milwaukee, WI, after honing his craft in Chicago. Born in Lockport, IL in 1950, the young Paul first heard the blues on the radio one night from a station in Tulsa, OK. He tuned in night after night and got to hear The Wolf, Sonny Boy II, Muddy, and all the greats. At 14 or 15 he first got to see and hear the blues up close and personal outside a club on the South Side of Chicago. Otis Rush and all these dressed up people showed up at 2 PM and Paul boiled in the sun outside the airconditioned club listening to his first live blues. Later, he heard Magic Sam and as he said, “…(I)t clicked. The phrasing was what I was hearing.” He has played with many a great and many a great has played with him. He has traveled the US and the globe playing the blues and has earned a place among the stars with his self-taught guitar work and overall strikingly interesting musicality. It’s not clean, it’s not pretty, but it’s the blues played like it should be.
Joining Paul are Benny Rickun on harp, a great young Wisconsin harp player, Chris Sandoval on drums (from Tommy Castro’s band), Rick Smith on bass, and a few guests here and there make things interesting. These guys have played with the likes of Castro, the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, The Groove Hogs, Bryan Lee and Dave Mason.
Things kick off with Magic Sam’s “All My Whole Life Baby,” the first of three Sam Maghett cuts. Filipowicz’ guitar stings, his vocal howl and things kick off with a lot of energy. Benny Rickun’s harp and the rest of the band join in the fray and it’s a fun, fun ride. “Brand New Hat” is next, contrasting to Magic Sam’s cut. It’s a dirty and raucous cut penned by Paul with some major guitar, a deep groove and big time shouting by Filipowicz. The title track is another original cut. Things slow down a bit and Paul’s guitar rings as the band responds to his calls on lead guitar. It’s a sweet instrumental showcasing his guitar work, here with a measured and cool pacing. The sax here and on the prior track by Tim Sobel adds a roundness and richness to the band as does Jack Naus trumpet. Another instrumental follows, this time featuring harp player Benny Rickun. “Canal Street” has a big solo guitar intro and then the band joins in. Rickun blows some dirty and mean harp in this tasty and special slow blues. Filipowicz also wrote this one and the band and he deliver a fine performance.
Willie’s and the Wolf’s “Howlin’ For My Darlin'” is up next, a joyful and bouncing blues that the band starts off with nicely. Filipowicz comes in with the vocals and offers a clean and up front rendition on this classic. Guitar and harp continue to impress and the sax her and the prior track makes for a full sound. Tony Menzer takes the bass up for “Everything Gonna Be Alright,” the second Magic Sam tune. Paul shouts in his authentic style and the guitar rings as Benny supplements things with his harp. Little Milton’s “I Found a New Love,” also made famous by Magic Sam, gets a very dirty and interesting cover here. The harp blows are filthy, the guitar is poignant and the band is tight. Slow and effectively dirty blues are what we get here. Up for us to enjoy next is an original entitled “My Woman.” The guitar once again stings with a faraway and distant sound as Filipowicz growls out the vocal lead. Trumpet and sax return but it’s the cool harp interplay with the backline that makes this one interesting. Bib Gedden’s “Tin Pan Alley,” first made famous in 1953 by Jimmy Wilson is a cut most are familiar with by Stevie Ray Vaughn. Filipowicz brings this back from Texas and delivers it in his own, direct Chicago style. Great guitar pacing and vocals make this both cool and fun. Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” follows, a delightful, slow blues with the horns blowing in support. Filipowicz guitar is thoughtful and metered, his vocals grab you and make this another winner. The set concludes with Paul’s own “Riding High,” with the horns in full swing and the band pushing Filipowicz into a striking and poignant performance. The groove is sweet, the guitar and harp are excellent and Paul’s vocals are strikingly sweet.
If you don’t like authentic, dirty, greasy Chicago blues delivered by a master of the style, then by all means avoid this one. But if you are a blues lover with a pulse, you will enjoy this one. After one listen you’ll be checking Paul’s website with see when he next lays in your area. You won’t want to miss him when he comes to your town, and if he does not then you should make an effort to go see him live- you won’t regret it!