Portrait of Paul Geremia

Went to see a vocalist accompanied by an acoustic guitar player the other night, and their songbook was filled with Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith tunes, played quite competently. But it reminded me just how lucky we Rhode Islanders were to live in a time when Paul Geremia was at the top of his game, blowing minds with his acoustic blues and rags. Here’s a chance to find out more.

Geoff  Adams made this portrait of the acoustic blues master in the early 1983.

Rick Belaire wrote this career history when Paul was inducted in the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame

Here’s a bunch of things I blabbed about Paul a long time ago in the Providence Phoenix:

Astonishment is the norm when Paul Geremia sets up shop: the various strains of acoustic blues are wildly rigorous, and easy to get “wrong.” The guitarist has been getting ‘em “right” for half a century. He is one of our most nuanced and compelling acoustic blues players.

I like to cut to the chase when discussing Paul Geremia. The Rhode Island guitarist is the best country blues picker working today. The breadth of his stylistic expertise, the old-time vibe in his picking prowess, and the killer chops that he brings to bear on his now-enormous book truly make his one-man presentation seem near orchestral. Jumping rhythms and nasty trills, vocal growls and spiritual murmurs, a rush of energy that stomps its way through a tune – he’s got it all. When he’s having a great night – which is often – you can see just how alive this ancient music can be. And watch him drag Bush through the mud, too. A protector of the little guy, Paul’s always worked politics into his art.

Paul Geremia starts jabbing that 12-string on “Shuckin’ Sugar,” and it becomes obvious: he’s one of America’s top blues guitarists. The track is a part of the very impressive Love My Stuff (Red House), a compendium of blues styles, each of which Geremia has insights into. The piece I’ve been liking is “My Money Never Runs Out,” where a full-flowing rhythm drives the amusing tale of a penniless dude with an upper crust attitude; it’s a great example of how much sound can come out of Geremia’s instrument.

One response to “Portrait of Paul Geremia

  1. I saw Rory Block at Passim’s in the 90’s and told her she was the “female” Paul Geremia which prompted a huge smile. The next summer I saw Paul in the crowd at the New Bedford Folk Festival while Rory Block was on the stage and told him what I had said to her. His smile was as wide as hers and I felt very fortunate to have had that interaction. His “Cocaine Princess” is a well written (and played) song that will stand the test of time, just like Gary Davis’ “Cocaine Blues”.

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