PAUL CURRERI > California


Videos by American Songwriter




[Rating: 3.5 stars]

After constant touring in support of 2007’s Velvet Rut, Charlotte native Paul Curreri suffered a severe injury to his throat that left him unable to sing. Needless to say, for a man who makes his living with his voice, this was problematic. The dramatic injury prompted an equally dramatic response; Curreri rode a newly acquired motorcycle for thousands upon thousands of miles throughout the expansive Blue Ridge Valley. To Curreri, this solitary exercise provided a cathartic release of sorts- it was just him, alone on the open road.

From this pivotal experience came an outpouring of his most meditative and musically diverse material to date. California, an album that marries the shambling roots rock-edginess of Velvet Rut with the finger-picked country blues of earlier efforts like From Long Gones to Hawkmoth, is a joyous step forward in Curreri’s burgeoning career.

Whether the state of California served as the chief inspiration for his latest collection of songs, the album manages to evoke the laid-back cool that the Golden State has long been associated with. The driving blues and distinct harmonies of “Once Upon a Rooftop” sound like an excerpt from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà vu. The cyclical acoustic brilliance of the title track and “I Can Here the Future Calling” are both fine examples of Curreri’s stellar guitar skills and recall guitar master John Martyn. “Tight Pack Me Sugar” is a piano driven circus-waltz that comes across like a study in early Tom Waits.

California is by no means simply an homage to Curreri’s principle influences, however. He is an under-appreciated talent both lyrically and technically. But ultimately, it is the emotional impact of his songwriting that most succeeds, as in the standout closer, “Down By the Water,” a jubilant cousin to the work of Joni Mitchell and Cat Stevens: “Down by the water, out in the moonlight/ Everything matters down by the water.” Even the most skeptical listeners won’t be able to help but test the water to see for themselves.

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