catalog-no. tx 1046
blues - 1999
Cuesta Grade (83)
The Toll (89K)
Walk Away (64K)
Singer, songwriter and master guitarist Paul Keim hails from Southern California. He is an artist who has all the potential to be put in line with other contemporary roots masters like Ben Harper, Keb' Mo and Eric Bibb. So, is there a musical or spiritual link amongst these very successful individual talents? We feel that Paul's CUESTA GRADE CD on Taxim is an album that offers some answers to this question.
First of all, there seems to be an awareness of the tradition that is connecting these new talents with the older generation – just think of greats like David Lindley, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Richard Thompson or Leo Kottke. Berkeley-born Paul Keim remembers a key experience from some formative years in Washington, D.C. Listening to a local soul station late at night, he was hit by the power of the great Howlin' Wolf singing "Smokestack Lightnin'" – "I haven't been the same since," Paul says today. But this was just the beginning of a journey deep into the musical worlds of some of the greatest in the blues, folk and singer-songwriter genres. On his way he came across the gospel fervor of Blind Willie Johnson's country blues spirituals, the innovative open tunings of Joni Mitchell, the virtuosity of Leo Kottke, the deep expression of Ry Cooder's slide playing and the sly ironies of Fats Waller. All of which became influential landmarks in his individual musical consciousness. CUESTA GRADE is aural proof of this statement. Thirteen originals embellished with a Robert Johnson cover and a nice medley of "Amazing Grace/Mystery Train". Presented in a nice small group setting with guitars, bass, drums/percussion and piano.
Today Paul Keim lives in Ojai, CA, as a fifth generation Californian. This is where he has made a name for himself at club and festival appearances. And this is also where he has developed his own abilities at mastering a variety of acoustic guitars whose names are connected with a specific musical genre. Martin Guitars stand for the great folk tradition whereas the metal resophonic National guitars symbolize the country blues and folk blues tradition. And last but not least, the name Weissenborn brings a shine to many a player's eye, as these almost mythical lap guitars from the 1920s were only brought to a wider public's attention in recent years by David Lindley and Ben Harper. Made from Hawaiian woods and renowned for their fragility, the almost mythic Weissenborn guitars have been a great object of Paul Keim's affection as well. But he's not just a guitar collector - his own abilities live up to all of his instruments' potential for sure.
But back to the inital question. What is the link between these up-and-coming roots stars? Paul Keim has his own answer: "If there's a new music form out there, it's going to be a result of the last two generations' access to many diverse music forms. What other generation has been able to listen to Jimmy Cliff, Muddy Waters, Bob Wills, Miles Davis and Bach?" So like in any evolutionary music, the music of the new roots players is a synthesis of several styles and genres. And this leads us to the central point of explanation for this contemporary musical consciousness. Besides mainting the values of traditional musicianship and a confident sense of sincerity, these new artists value the importance of anything that's for real. Paul Keim: "As you grow as a musician, you realize that anybody honest has to play something that's real, something that's part of them... As a contemporary citizen of the world I've heard many different kinds of music. Mine is formed by an awareness of them all. I always hope that the music I play will inspire people to think, as well as feel, and create imagery about a time and a place."
So here we are again with another great discovery from California – Paul Keim. The music on CUESTA GRADE might sound familiar in parts, but it surely has the power to infatuate our senses in an honest kind of way. Contemporary folk-blues crossover sounds par excellence.
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