Release date: March 11, 2022
By Mark Thompson
A renowned boat designer from Maine, guitarist Paul Waring has been leading a band for more than twenty years. His love of the music drew him to Chicago in 2010, where he soaked up the blues in the city's vibrant club scene. The trips became more frequent once he fell in love, leading to a 2014 marriage. But that did not end his interest in the city or the music.
His latest release features nine Waring originals written over the last six years. Many of the songs, as well as the album title, reflect the emotional turmoil of the past two years, where love or Covid are equally capable of creating heartache and misery.
The time spent in the clubs helped the guitarist select an impressive cast of musicians to help him articulate his musical vision. Pete Galanis co-produced the project with Waring as well as sharing the lead and rhythm guitar roles. Veteran Ari Seder once again shows why he is one of the top bass players in Chicago, consistently providing a dynamic rhythmic foundation along with Jason “JROC” Edwards on drums, borrowed from Joanna Connor's band. The final piece was Elton Jaan, filling out the arrangements on the Hammond organ in an additional eight hour recording session.
Stylistically, the music is best described as contemporary blues, with a focus on guitar. The sound is outstanding, with credit going to Galanis for his deft hand mixing the tracks. The dual guitars jump out at you, engaging in scintillating interplay on virtually every track. The liner notes don't designate who plays what solo, but listeners most certainly will be content to sit back and enjoy the riveting fretwork on the slow blues “Just My Luck” or the Hendrix-inspired rocker “Trip On Your Love”.
Waring's vocals have a raw edge as witnessed on the opener, “Blues At Home,” with a fine guitar solo followed by Jaan's fleet-fingered response. The leader gets vocal support from Andrea Miologos and Bree Gordon on “Pork Pie Hat,” an up-tempo tribute to his favorite hat, with inspiration courtesy of the great jazz saxophonist, Lester Young. To his credit, Waring doesn't try to do more that he is capable of as a singer, although his narrow range at times blunts the dynamic impact of his vocals.
He delivers a strong outing on “These Times,” adding some ringing guitar licks that make this a standout track. “Left Me With The Blues” addresses the familiar theme of “my woman left me,” but Jaan elevates the proceedings with more fine organ playing. Another highlight occurs on “Blues I Can Use,” a soulful lament with several beautifully constructed guitar interludes. Waring wrote “Blue On You” in response to a friend's suicide as a way to work through his grief. The band brings some edgy funk to “This Mother's A Miracle,” once again highlighting the six string chemistry shared by Galanis and Waring.
For the closing number, “Where You Been So Long,” the band establishes a soulful groove that would have brought a smile to the composer, the late Mighty Sam McClain. All of the elements are there – Jaan's simmering organ chords riding the taut rhythm, the guitars stoking the flames one more time. It adds up to an impressive excursion that will undoubtedly raise Waring's profile in the blues community. Listeners who appreciate music that straddles the divide between blues and rock will have plenty to enjoy, as will anyone interested in music that highlights the strengths of collaboration.
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About the Author: Mark Thompson lives in Bradenton, Florida and is the past president of the Suncoast Blues Society. A former Chicago area native, he also acted as the president of Rockford/Byron's Crossroads Blues Society. Thompson writes for many blues publications and served on the Board for the Blues Foundation in Memphis, which hosts the annual Blues Music Awards and International Blues Challenge events.