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V.E. Paul - Susquehanna Stomp

Self release

10 songs; Time 31:07; Suggested

Style: Delta Blues; Traditional Guitar Picking Blues

Do you know any casual Blues fans? I do not either. I know casual music fans, but no true Blues fans seem only mildly interested. Among passionate fans, two subjects will immediately immerse one into a lengthy discussion (if not a diatribe): (1) What is Blues and what is not? And(2) The future of the Blues.

Among aging Baby Boomers, who seem to make up a large part of the Blues audience, looking 20, 30, or 50 years into the Blues future brings thoughts from one extreme to the other. The future of Blues is such a concern that Memphis’ Blues Foundation even has its annual recognition and awards called “Keeping the Blues Alive.”

So, when an artist comes along that both represents the future and can be celebrated in the present, he or she is worth our notice. 15 year old V.E. Paul is such an artist. With Robert Johnson as a hero and playing and singing in the traditional one-man-and-his-guitar style, Paul will likely carry these Blues we love on another sixty years. He seems to have the same fire in his belly as his musical heroes and will play Blues no matter how much the remuneration, or lack thereof, and many obstacles.

On a side note, “Youth playing Blues” is a third topic (translated can-of-worms) which can also immerse one into a lengthy discussion. Sure, Blues and its themes is basically an adult music that requires some living and seasoning, but many of the greats got an early start, like Buddy Guy, Little Walter, Eddie C. Campbell playing with Muddy Waters around age 12, and Sean Costello – to name a very few.

Born V. E. Paul Sgroi on June 19, 1993, and residing in Dallas Pennsylvania, the youngster reports from the Blind Man’s Blues Forum that by age 12, “...the urge came about to play the blues. In my short few years of doing so, I've mastered (mastered, of course, being a relative term) the art of slide guitar, piedmont-style finger-picking, and all-around manipulation of the instrument to facilitate my musical tomfoolery.”

As a member of the 2009 Youth Showcase at the International Blues Challenge, Paul commented on the future, “On the bright side, lack of talent isn't the question. It seems like there's enough people my age who are playing real blues well. Anyone who was at the Youth Showcase of the IBC this year can attest to that.”

Paul’s debut CD, “Susquehanna Stomp” is a wonderful album of mostly original songs (7 of 10) played adeptly on electrified guitars and sung with a soulful voice that will fool anyone into thinking he is much older. Paul said, “The traditional style suits my tastes, maybe with a little jazz influence, and that's what I'll keep doing.”

The CD opens with the bouncy, two minute title track with its name a nod to that western Pennsylvania river. The melodic opening guitar tones reminded me of the Chet Atkins and Les Paul album “Chester and Lester.” This is one of only two songs where Paul has guest musicians, here Wayne Sorbelli on guitar and Tom Martin on harp. Tom Martin’s harp work is heard again on “South Main Street,” a slow Blues lyrically reminiscent of “Tin Pan Alley.”

Track two is a fast paced 12 bar number nicely intermixing single string picking and slide chording. Lyrically, Paul reveals a mature understanding that even a “nice girl... greatest woman in the world” can actually be a “Devil Woman” (the title) with initially hidden “horns upon her head” and “wings coming out of her back.”

With the way Paul can communicate a story with both his guitar playing and his voice, I do not how he did not win at the International Blues Challenge. I wasn’t there, but his online videos show a confidence to match his dexterity and deep sense of the Blues. Get this CD, keep an eye on his career, and rest easy about the future of the Blues!

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL
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