Review: “Live at Antone’s” by Possessed by Paul James
To give his fans a little something special between his last release in 2010, Feed the Family, and his upcoming album, folk and blues troubadour John Konrad Wert, who records and performs under the moniker Possessed by Paul James, has just released a limited edition 10-inch piece of vinyl. Recorded live at Antone’s in Austin, Texas by Austin Music Weekly, this six-song release is also the first offering from fledgling label Normandeep Blues Recordsin France. And it captures the raw, primal and altogether soulful delivery of an artist whose seemingly unequaled musical passion sends him into so many wild fits of guitar and banjo pickin’, fiddle playing, and foot stompin’, all while he unleashes a torrent of vocal intensity. He jerks and convulses, trembles and sweats, committing himself utterly to the moment, to the experience, to the music. His head shakes back and forth, bobs up and down, increasing in speed or slowing along with the rhythm and only pausing to feed his voice into the microphone. He is a rare force of nature, this one, and this record proves just that.
While I have little doubt that strict audiophiles won’t be all that pleased with the quality of the recording, it is important to keep in mind that it is in fact a live performance and should sound like one. Be that as it may, this record holds some pure and magical Possessed by Paul James moments, like the amazing version of “Men, Men, Men,” which consists solely of vocals and foot stomping. There is also the cool show banter that Wert drops between songs, which one doesn’t get with studio recordings.
Live at Antone’sopens with “There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely,” complete with brilliant fiddle, quite possibly Wert’s strongest instrument, which he alternately bows and strums. The vocals are strong and the lyrics are moving.
“Feed the Family,” the title track on Possessed by Paul James’s last studio full-length album, is also present on this piece of vinyl. This is always a lively folk tune with subject matter that most of us can relate to all too well. Regarding the meaning behind this song, Wert said it best in his 2010 songbook, “Ok then. This song is pretty straightforward. It’s all about choices, right? We make good ones, we back awful ones, we try to fix the fuck-ups. Feed the damn family already!”
And then there’s one of my favorite Possessed by Paul James songs, “Oh to Rhythm,” which is listed as “Ode to Rhythm” on this particular release. Quite simply, it is a banjo and vocal tune that I first came across while watching the Slowboat Films documentary The Folk Singer.
Highly recommended for avid obscure record collectors and hardcore Possessed by Paul James fans.
*This review originally appeared in The National Examiner, March 27, 2012. Feel free to visit the site and subscribe to my writing for more pieces like this one. http://www.examiner.com/roots-music-in-national/review-live-at-antone-s-by-possessed-by-paul-james-review