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The Tall Paul Band - Sleeper

11 Tracks, 39:48

The Tall Paul Band has built a solid reputation in the blues world on the strength of guitarist Paul Webner’s considerable chops, fiery playing and well-written original music. Tall Paul Webner has been a bit of a nomad. He was born in Canada, spent part of his life in Washington, D.C. and now lives in Tucson, AZ. He spent some time backing Sam "The Man" Taylor before forming The Tall Paul Band in 1998. Sleeper, on Blind Raccoon, is the band’s debut album.

“Sleeper” is also the lead off track on the album and it has a deep bass groove; rumbling and active like volcano about to blow. Paul’s guitar tones are crisp and the bass/guitar unison runs that punctuate the song are akin to the classic prog-rock style of another notable trio, Rush. This tune is definitely not sleepy, but Paul’s vocal delivery is relaxed and provides an acute juxtaposition for the song and indeed the whole album.

“Space Race” starts off like a surf music boogie morphing into power chord bashing that blasts off to space station number five. If it was played on a Les Paul through a Marshall cranked to eleven it too would sound at home on an early 70’s Rush album. Maybe it’s Paul’s latent Canadian urge to rock coming through. I happen to like it a lot. The song is expertly crafted and lives up to its name. He reins in the bombast, keeps it short and to the point and leaves you wanting more. It’s a nearly perfect song for any genre, but maintains enough of a blues rock edge to avoid seeming out of place.

Tall Paul seems right at home on a motorcycle and the tune “Ridin’” extols the virtues of clearing your head as you thunder along the open road. “Somethin’ Special” has thunder from another, torn asunder in the bass line provided by Kevin Heiderman. “Somethin’ Special” takes the hard rock of “Space Race” to another dimension riding a sine wave of bass energy. The electric guitar riffing may propel the tune and the acoustic rhythm guitar strums in the arrangement make it pop, but that underlying bass makes this track successful.

Bassist Kevin Heiderman is the secret weapon of the Tall Paul Band and thankfully prominent in the mix. A full sound is important to a trio and a bass player pumping eighth notes isn’t going to do it. Heiderman keeps it interesting, goes low, goes deep, and builds a groove in nearly every song. He understands the harmonic structure of the music and knows his sonic space in the mix like he was born there and never left. Heiderman also has a writing credit on the record with “199 Days,” an early Rock & Roll-style tune where Tall Paul gets to flex his Chuck Berry muscles as the band churns out the boogie.

A lot of people play guitar really well but never connect with an audience because of poor song writing or sub-par band mates. Tall Paul has the songs and the skilled musicians along for the ride. However, one minor drawback on Sleeper is Tall Paul’s voice. Paul’s voice isn’t bad, but something is lacking. If any sleep comparisons could be drawn, this is the place for it. He doesn’t sound confident. His material is above average and in some cases excellent but his voice doesn’t do it justice, and their choice of covers like the reworked version of Koko Taylor’s “Come To Mama” (here it’s “Come To Papa”) really needs strong vocals to sell the song. I’m guessing Paul got sick of lead singers and decided to do it himself. A few more records might make it better and he might start to feel it, but some people just aren’t singers. Most singers can’t play guitar like Tall Paul either.

Paul’s guitar playing isn’t perfect. It isn’t particularly technical, and it isn’t gratuitously flashy. He probably won’t be the next guitar hero either, but that doesn’t matter. Paul knows the songs inside out and plays exactly what they need. He knows how to pick the right tone, the right notes, the right chord forms and the right amount of time to get his point across. This is probably most evident in the album’s two instrumentals, “Space Race” and album closer “Don’t Leave.” It takes talent to write memorable instrumentals and convey the spirit of the music without using words and Paul Webner has that talent. If Paul gets his vocal chops in line with his playing and songwriting he will be a force to be reckoned with. Sleeper may end up just what it says; an unexpected success derived from hard work and positive word of mouth. Sleeper is an enjoyable album from start to finish and worthy of your attention.

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

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