Paul Gillings – You Don’t Even Know
CD: 12 Songs, 40 Minutes
Styles: Harmonica Blues, Acoustic Blues, Solo Album, Debut Album
Picture a diamond in your mind. More than likely, it looks like a specimen from ZALES or Kay Jewelers ads. Faceted, fiery, sparkling and shimmering, it dazzles your eyes if not your budget. Now imagine the same gem freshly dug from the ground. Doesn’t look like much, does it? Nevertheless, it is, in fact, a diamond. So is You Don’t Even Know, a brilliant acoustic and harmonica blues album from the UK’s Paul Gillings. The cover art is unobtrusive as can be, but once you hear the album inside, you’ll wonder why Pablo Picasso or da Vinci didn’t rise from the dead to do it. To top it all off, it’s a debut. How can anyone be this good and have released just one single studio album? Gillings has been performing for over thirty years, but only now has he graced us with his presence on a CD. Hopefully it will lead to critical acclaim in the US.
At the age of eleven, Paul heard the harmonica for the very first time while sitting round a campfire at a Boy Scout cook-out. His scoutmaster, Norman Ives, was playing harp at the time. Ives also ran a mail-order harmonica business. Several more Scouts became interested in the instrument, and soon they had enough members for a full ensemble. Around this time Norman met with David Michelsen (AKA Dr. Midnight). Between them, they began “Harp Start,” a free harmonica school for underprivileged children.
In 1993 Paul won the World Harmonica Championships in the Youth Blues/Rock and Youth Diatonic Jazz/Melodic sections, held in the Hohner stronghold of Trossingen, Germany. After victory, Paul received an endorsement from Lee Oskar himself and became a Lee Oskar Preferred Player. In 2003 Paul collaborated with Roger Trobridge, the then-chairman of the National Harmonica League to relaunch Harmonica World Magazine, working as a designer for five years. In 2018 Paul returned to songwriting, releasing tracks via Soundcloud with more than 80,000 plays to date. Solo tours for 2019 included Jurnet’s Bar in Norwich, The Fisher Theatre, Upton Blues Festival, Folk East and The Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival.
“Fatherhood” starts You Don’t Even Know off with a bang, or in this case, a buzz. It’s a paean to the earthly sort, but minus the part about death, it can also be seen as a hymn, with God as our Heavenly Father. “I want to share all my wisdom with you,” our narrator exults, along with “I want to give my possessions to you” and “I’m gonna set my high standards on you.” Who among us can’t relate, whether we’ve been fathers or not? Next comes the harrowing “As Crazy as Me,” the harp intro reminiscent of a wasp nest in a sawmill during full swing. It’ll drive you mad if you let it. “The Age of Condescension” is a bit confusing. Has the protagonist reached the age where he condescends to other people, or where other people condescend to him? Never fear, though: “Phishing Blues,” “Tweed Tube Amp and a Crystal Element” and the magnificent closer “All These Years” await. Once you finish this CD, you’ll understand why harmonica is “harp.” The kind with strings is played by angels, but several of them prefer the mouth variety instead.
To add to the magic, in the liner notes, Gillings mentions the various harmonicas he plays, from a Kongsheng Solist (in G) down to a Seydel 1847 (in F and low F). All are diamond-lustrous!