by Danny Coleman
A show well worth the price of admission recently was the Paul Nelson Band at that hidden gem, The Lizzie Rose Music Room in Tuckerton, NJ. A Grammy Award winning producer and an incredibly talented guitarist, Paul brings his brand of Blues and Blues-Rock music to the intimate confines of this well-balanced venue; something he is very excited about.
“These are when all the dates for all the musicians are really kicking in,” he began with a tone of relief. “I think everybody kind of figured March and now everyone is in full-swing and yeah, on the 22nd we’re gonna be at The Lizzie Rose Music Room and I love that place! The staff and the sound in there are just great! I know that the past few years have been rough on everybody so I’m glad we’re back and running.”
“I have seven new albums out; the problem is they are everyone else’s but mine,” he continued with a large laugh. “I’m working with Patty Tuite, a female artist up in New England, I produced her album and played on it and one of the tracks, “Nothing But Trouble” is number three on the RMR charts and the album was there for like 27 weeks in the top tier so, that’s cool. Then I’ve got so many other things and so many different styles. I’m working with a band up here in Maine; they’re a fantastic band, a lot like Bob Seger, Van Morrison, that kind of thing, a jam band. Then I just finished an album with Marcus Rezak; that’s like a supercharged Phish kind of thing which has the bass player from Kung Fu, who was my bass player for a little bit; the drummer from Deep Banana Blackout and that was cool and that song I did with Patty has got Bobby Rush on it and then I just recorded Willie J Laws, “Too Much Blues” album and I got Jerry Portnoy over there on that. So, it’s like all of these releases are all coming out now because everybody was doing this recording and writing during the pandemic and now all of this material is coming out. So, now, my gigs have kicked in and I just booked about a 180 for this year so, that’s going great; so I’m like; when do I have time for me?? (Laughs) We’re doing a three piece thing, which is very cool and we’re getting to play all of these places. Currently, I have Joey Pafumi who was the former drummer for Walter Trout, my lead singer and bassist so, it is kind of like a Cream or a Stevie Ray Vaughn type of thing, is Lars Chappell and he was a great find. So, we’re doing Florida, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Georgia; it’s a big run. We also did a Midwest run and one of the dates was with Wishbone Ash and that was cool, they were great and then I think after this run, we’re definitely going to Buddy Guy’s again; he always sits in so that’s always a treat. I’m really good friends with Buddy and whenever I’m coming to town and I play his place he makes sure to come up on stage and play for about a half-hour. I know he’s doing his farewell tour so, he’s gonna spend a lot more time at his club after that most likely.”
With so much music and none of it his own; when does he find the time to write and/or record new material and does he ever get to play it in front of an audience? What does he do for his audiences?
“Luckily, because it’s a Blues-Rock situation, we do originals and we get to try them out on the road. So, it’s not like we are just up there doing covers; that’s the beauty of the blues world, it is very similar to a jazz ensemble where you can take a song, play the familiar parts and then in the middle you just go crazy! You put in your own parts and you do your own interpretation of things; we do that and then take it home. So, there are some updated versions because you know, my style is more modern guitar not the traditional blues but we take those and put our own spin on them. I mean, a lot of bands have done that for years. Everybody has paid homage to another artist by doing their song and that kind of thing; that’s what we do. Then for some reason, in between these I just started putting in all these bits and pieces from other songs within these songs and then our originals kick in and some nods to certain artists and it doesn’t matter if it’s Freddie King or Albert King or Johnny Winter or Hendrix or another guy that I think is really cool. When you see guys like Bonamassa and Warren Haynes and you always see them doing their version of “Further On Up The Road,” it’s all their version so no one ever gets tired of it or when a new artist does their version of something and then it becomes part of the overall thinking for that song and it’s like, well, I want to hear a certain song so they think, I’ll do this one and if someone’s really collapsed into that; then it’s cool. Sonny Landreth would do that kind of thing but I haven’t done my versions often; until now and the more you play, the more people catch you by cell phone or by regular filming and so that happens as well and helps you build it up. So, it’s a picture of everything I do and I’ll slide in some regular guitar shuffles, slow blues, fast Blues-Rock tunes. I try to cater to everybody in the crowd and get my own rocks off a little bit. I do a little tribute to Jeff Beck; that was a big, big loss because he was a huge inspiration and idol of mine, It’s just killing me. So, yeah, that kind of thing because I want you to know what will be on the table.”
“They’re not covers, they’re interpretations,” he continued, “Because every night you’re gonna have different gear and different people and different guitars, a different lineup, different times; no two nights are the same. The blues are templates for improvisation and the crowd knows that, that’s what they’re there to see and if they respond and they are into it and they like it; It’s gonna pop!”
Nelson spent many years as the road manager, producer, confidant and touring guitarist for the late, great Johnny Winter and has seen the ebbs and flows of the Blues genre. When told that Blues music seems to be cyclical; he was in total agreement but was quick to, “Give credit where credit is due.“
“You’ve gotta give credit where credit is due; it’s Bonamassa,” he said with confidence. “Joe brought the guitar back in the limelight and made solos cool again. Everybody’s influenced by Robben Ford which is so cool and they get a little modern jazz with that which blows my mind because I’m like wow, this is actually pretty cool. There are times I’m playing up there and I’m like Jesus; should I stop and go back to the song? Then I’m like, no way! I’m thinking if I were to ask you; what was BB King’s last album? You’d be like, “OK, hold on.” Who cares? He’s BB King! People want to see the artist and their interpretations of stuff; they’ve already established themselves hopefully as musicians and that it’s gonna be a good evening and the people are gonna get good music for their hard earned dollar and that the artist and the band practiced to make that happen. The biggest problem we blues musicians have is hearing people say, “I saw them last year and they played the same stuff.” I mean, get out of the darkness and learn some new stuff. Some of those older blues guys do the same thing, bumpety, bumpety, bumpety, bump right down to the same speeches and talks in between. So, that doesn’t flow for too long and that doesn’t get you out there on a regular basis. So, you have to keep it fresh and that’s what we do. Bonamassa; a ton of the percentage of the stuff he’s doing are his versions of Clapton, Howlin’ Wolf, Bobby Blue Bland, Allman Brothers tunes; but guess what? They wrote great songs and hopefully people will research them and be like wow, we’re wrong, that wasn’t written by who we thought. I mean how many people don’t even know who wrote, “Dust My Broom” anymore? Hopefully because of stuff and artists like that, people do research and that’s how you keep that alive. That keeps it going and if the history of that ends or that kind of thing isn’t studied by people then it dies but as long as it is kept alive and the artist keeps doing it and tips their hat out of respect from where it came, people will say, “I listened to this because that’s the way to pass it, not forward but to pass it back and learn the history.” So, right now, there’s a lot of those artists still around but all of the traditional blues guys are having a little trouble because the Blues- Rock guys are kind of what people want now. They want a little blues in their rock and the blues guys want a little rock in their blues.”
The Paul Nelson Band is always a high-energy, rocking affair and the three pieces will fit The Lizzie Rose Music Room like a glove and to obtain tickets, please visit https://www.lizzierosemusic.com/. To read up on Paul Nelson, please go to https://www.paulnelsonguitar.com/