I’m a big fan of old acoustic country blues. So when an email came into the Roadhouse recently asking if I was interested in a new album of exactly that, I couldn’t turn it down. I’m glad I didn’t.
The offer came from Paul Cowley, an Englishman living in France who just happens to have an uncanny talent for writing and performing one of the most basic and beautiful of all blues styles. Add to that a sense of traditional folk music, throw in some Americana, and you have his unique approach.
So I’ve been listening with great pleasure to the album, his sixth, titled “Long Time Comin.'” And then you learn that he didn’t really have much of a musical life until he was in his early 40s, when he was given an old Yamaha steel string guitar,
Since then, he has spent about 20 years since perfecting his unusual craft, and it makes his music an impressive accomplishment.
It’s even more impressive when you hear how he has created his own songs. It’s one thing to learn to play the music of others (and do it this well), but it’s a completely different level to be able to write the lyrics and music in the same spirit. Cowley makes it all sound easy.
That isn’t to say his music sounds old-fashioned or out of date. There’s a lyrical sophistication here, which, when coupled with his elegant guitar work, weaves a tapestry of highly personal, contemporary acoustic blues.
This new album is just Cowley on guitar (plus some percussion), six finely crafted originals and five great old tunes — Blind Boy Fuller (‘Lost Lover Blues”), Charlie Patton “Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues”), Mississippi John Hurt (“Louis Collins”), Ray Charles (“Confession Blues”) and Blind Willie McTell (“Love Changin’ Blues”)
As he sings on the title track, “I got my mojo, I found my voice, I’m singin’ the blues….”
And it certainly sounds as though he has. As he told Gary Burnett of the blog Down at the Crossroads, “I’m most pleased this time, because this time in the recording process I found a new level of certainty. So yeah, long time coming, I do feel I’ve got my mojo and my voice and I’m happy!”
Cowley tours in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom. I haven’t seen any references to U.S. appearances. Maybe someone can coax him over. And maybe someone should look into marketing his music here. We’d all benefit.
Here’s an interview from Earlyblues.com, from about 2015.
Here’s a review/interview from Down at the Crossroads.
Video of “Long Time Comin'”:
Video of “Don’t Need Too Much”:
The track list / back CD cover