Tawl Paul – That’s Just How I Am
CD: 12 Songs, 42 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Traditional Electric and Acoustic Blues
Perhaps no other musical genre is more intertwined with longevity than the blues. Rock has long verged from the path Elvis Presley and the Beatles trod. Country sounds less and less like Jimmie Rodgers and more and more like Luke Bryan. Move over, Madonna: Billie Eilish is fast becoming the Queen of Pop. In the blues world, however, the Waters are still Muddy and BB still reigns as King. Masters and originators are venerated, emulated, and invoked at every turn. Even Chicagoland’s Tawl Paul, on his latest CD, tips his hat to such greats as Bobby Charles (“Walking to New Orleans”), Hambone Willie Newborn (“Rollin’ and Tumblin’”), Richard M. Jones (“Trouble in Mind”), and John Prine (“Hello in There). The vast majority of these covers work – six in total – but some, such as “Autumn Leaves,” are a tad chaotic. The ensemble of artists is top-notch, and even though Paul’s vocals show his age, he remains a contender. His original work, such as “Baldheaded Blues” and the title track, are remarkably catchy.
Growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Paul Frederick got hard by the blues and soul, falling in love with them. He grew up to serve with the Army in Vietnam, then came to Carbondale in the early 1970s to attend college. Soon afterward, he joined a band and discovered two things: He was born to sing, and Carbondale was his home. For fifty years, he’s sung the blues, making himself into one of the local scene’s most revered performers. He’s enriched Carbondale so much that in 2013, Mayor Joel Fritzler declared June 23rd Tawl Paul Day. On top of that, local bar PK’s now holds an annual Tawl Paul Weekend every June in his honor, with local music greats coming out and alumni returning in droves to pay homage.
Along with Tawl Paul (vocals) are Kent McDaniel on guitars, bass and finger snaps; drummers Kegan Doty, Chris Butler, and Alpha Stewart; Mike Arthur and Mel Goot on keyboards; Dorothy McDaniel on flute and bass; Chris McKinley and Kathy Livingston on harmony vocals; Lew Hendrix on banjo, and John Temmermen on sax.
“Baldheaded Blues” comes first out of Paul’s original material, a spot-on Chicago-style shuffle. “I’ve got these lines in my face, but I sure ain’t over that hill,” he tells a prospective lover with cheeky charm. Mel Goot’s piano keyboards are a hoot, as is Kent McDaniel’s guitar. “Big Jim” is a lot grittier and a little bit wittier, a ballad about another denizen of Chi-town’s South Side. The title track has an earworm refrain: “Hello, sir or ma’am. That’s just how I am.” Do people change? Maybe so or maybe not, but in the end one’s true character shines through.
When local blues icons like Mr. Frederick continue to proclaim their love for the music and the fans who make it all possible, it often has more impact on a community than a CD by a household-name artist. Let’s hope Tawl Paul keeps it up for years to come!