The Paul deLay Band: Take It From The Turnaround
(Evidence) ECD 26076-2

What separates Paul deLay from the legions of white-boy harp-playin' bluz acts that have sprouted like crabgrass over the last decade? Well, first of all, he ain't a Johnny-come-lately, he's been on the music scene in Portland, Oregon for almost 30 years. Secondly, he is acknowledged by his peers as being the most brilliantly gifted and creative harmonica player anywhere and he's got a fine natural blues singin' voice as well. But, of all his strengths, it's his ability as a songwriter that makes him stand so tall above the competition. He's an eloquent obeserver of life's trials and tribulations, expecially affairs of the heart. He's got a great wry wit that keeps his tunes semi-serious and exuding that "Oh well, that's life!" attitude.

Fans from San Diego to Ahchorage know all about him -- he's played the well-worn blues circuit for over 20 years, winning more and more fans along the way and adding to his reputation as "The Man". There are lots of hot harmonica players out here in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Oakland, but they all stop talking about who's hot and who's not when deLay's name gets mentioned. Apparently they've discovered him over in Europe too, with his CDs hitting the charts and England's Red Lightnin' label releasing an album back in the early 1980s. Up 'til now, though, Paul has remained mostly a regional king of the blues, with the rest of North America having to survive on rumours of his greatness, unless thay had acquired his LPs/CDs via mail order from Criminal Records, the Portland-based independent that has been churning out great discs on Pacific Northwest talent for a dozen years or more.

The 19 tracks on this disc are culled from deLay's last two releases on Criminal -- The Other One and Paulzilla -- and it's quite an awesome combination. While harp players learning the tricks of the trade for years have focussed on the recordings of Little Walter, Big Walter and George "Harmonica" Smith, deLay will undoubtedly be added to that list. His chromatic harp playing is steps further than the great Little Walter took it. Ditto with George Smith. deLay expands boudaries and counsiousness with his playing. If Little Walter had joined A.A. and lived another 20 years, we might have heard similar sounds, but Paul is so much more than that. He's not in anyone's shadow or school of... he's totally and refreshingly unique and his sense of melody has the harmonica sounding sweeter than I've ever heard. These tracks are fascinating. Every single one is a gem of a composition. He's tops in my book in just about every category, and Evidence scored a major coup by winning the bidding war for his signature. You could take the other top five harp-playing bluesmen active today and, even combined, their talents couldn't match delay's.

And, let's not forget the incredible blues band that backs him on these tracks -- stars in their own right -- Peter Dammann on guitar, so smooth and impeccable; Louis Pain on keyboards, abrilliant technician; Dan Fincher on tenor sax, a monster; John bistline on bass and Jeff Minnick on drums, a rock solid foundation. It's not even fair to label these guys a blues band, their music defies categorization and is a mixture of rock, blues, jaxzz, funk and calypso (really!), but it's always hot and totally enjoyable. Tunes like "Second Hand Smoke" sound like Hollywood game show themes and I don't mean that in a negative way -- the playing is too damn hot!

I've got many favorites among the 19 cuts and I could go on and on as to how great Paul deLay is, but that wouldn't do. You have to hear this CD. Run to your nearest CD store, buy it, put it on and get deLay-ed and Paul-ished. And then you too will be waiting impatiently for his scheduled autumn release on Evidence of all new tunes. 6 bottles for the ultimate blues CD in terms of virtuosity.
-Andy Grigg

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