21 songs – 63 minutes
Paul Geremia was one of the foremost country blues revivalists in the 1960s, part of a cohort that included Dave Van Ronk, Jorma Kaukonen and John Hammond, amongst others. Since his first album in 1968, he has released a steady flow of new albums, all featuring his intricate acoustic finger picking (he has never recorded on an electric guitar) and gentle, world-weary voice.
In June 2014, the 70 year-old Geremia suffered a stroke. Various fund-raisers have been held, and a www.youcaring.com fund has been set up to help with the financial burden of his medical expenses, not least because most of his income came from performing, which he is currently unable to do. Another way to help out, of course, is to buy his CDs and Love My Stuff is a great place to start.
Love My Stuff is a18-song (three of apparent 21 tracks are actually spoken introductions) live collection recorded over a period of many years (dating back to the 1980s) at various locations in the USA. Featuring four self-penned tracks together with terrific interpretations of various classics by the likes of Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sleepy John Estes, Leadbelly and the Reverend Gary Davis, the album is almost a primer on pre-war blues with some early jazz and jug band songs thrown in for good measure. Geremia is a magnificent guitar player, capable of playing a range of acoustic blues and folk styles, from East and West Coast forms, through Texas and the Mississippi Delta. It is probably fair to say that his voice does not quite match up to his stellar guitar playing, but it is warm and careworn, and he often selects unexpected vocal melodies, giving well-known songs an unusual twist (for example, hurrying some of the words on “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”, adding an urgent drive to the track).
The song “Love My Stuff” is a good example of Geremia’s approach, as he speeds up Patton’s brilliant 1934 original, adding some additional verses from Patton’s “Bird Next Bound”. He respects the original, but is not afraid to take it in new directions.
The majority of the performances are solo, with Geremia singing, playing 6-string and 12-string guitar and, occasionally adding rack-mounted harmonica. He also plays slide guitar on Blind Willie McTell’s “Savannah Mama.” Two tracks also feature guest musicians: the superb, swinging version of King Oliver’s “Dr. Jazz”– originally made famous by Jelly Roll Morton – features Rory MacLeod on bass; and the magical Rich DelGrosso adds mandolin to Sleepy John Estes’ “Special Agent”.
Geremia’s own songs do not pale in comparison to the classics that he essays. “Cocaine Princess” in particular comes straight out of the Piedmont music tradition, but with distinctly modern lyrical concerns. As Geremia notes in his entertaining and illuminating liner notes: “I wrote this number in the early 90’s as a result of being careless about who I kept company with.”
Love My Stuff captures Paul Geremia at his best—on a stage in front of an appreciative audience, giving powerful and soulful performances. He has not previously recorded many of the tunes on Love My Stuff, making it both an excellent introduction to his music or, if you are already familiar with his oeuvre, a fine addition to his canon. Warmly recommended.