REVIEW
3 November 2011
Bhakta Paul: Cheap Horror
and Deep Zen

Generally, I think of 40 minutes as a good
length for an album. In this particular case,
however, 15 would have been better – for
the twelve tracks on Bhakta Paul’s "Death
Cab Blues" are variations on just five
musical themes, and that’s already a
generous estimate.
"Bhakta" Paul Doucet from Eugene, Oregon is not a bad guitar player. His
vocalizing, too, is effective enough, and all in all, the idea of recording a mix of
covers and originals in single takes, using just one’s voice and a plugged-in
Martin guitar, is a commendable one. Yet, the resulting disc suffers from the same
faults that tend to plague the works of many of his European contemporaries
who take their efforts so seriously as to believe themselves a continuation of an
African-American tradition, be it Hill Country, Delta or otherwise.

Ironically, of course, they are – even if sometimes closer to a mock image and
despite a lot of things, including their youthful preoccupation with Death, Devils,
Cheap Horror and Deep Zen, as extensively documented on this CD. The real
problems only set in when they start excusing everything they do with "that’s
how they used to do it in the early days."

Granted, "Sgt. Pepper" may not amount to much among bluesmen, but it’s worth
keeping in mind that the people making records "in the early days" were in fact
making discs that had one groove on one side and another on the flip, both of
them rather limited in length. They were definitely not thinking of making 40-
minute LP’s or 80-minute compact discs in 1927!

Moreover, evidence suggests that in live situations and when given the chance to
make longer records later in life, most of those old-timers exhibited a fabulous
grasp of dynamics and contrast: they knew very well how to build and pace a set
or a programme and *would not play identical tunes back-to-back* unless the
house was really rocking.

Admittedly, writers’ credits were never a straightforward issue even in the
earliest of days, but unlike some of us, Bhakta Paul excels in crediting
Son House
("Death Letter"),
Rev. Gary Davis ("Death Don’t Have No Mercy", "I Heard The
Angels Singing", "Twelve Gates To The City") and
Robert Johnson ("Crossroad
Blues", "Hellhound On My Trail"). Strangely enough, he fails to mention
Bob
Dylan
, for "Keeping It All Secret (Subterranean Blues Remix)" is very much a
cover of Dylan’s "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and no more a remix than any of
the other tracks...

There aren’t many blues guitarists out there today who would list
Blind Gary
Davis
as their primary influence, and in that respect, "Bhakta" Paul Doucet is
definitely worth keeping an eye on. But unless you’re a die-hard collector of
contemporary acoustic blues, you might want to actually listen to this album
before placing an order.

ANDRES ROOTS


Bhakta Paul: "Death Cab Blues". Tulsi Nation Productions, 2011

Bhakta Paul (vocals, guitar)


Link:
Bhakta Paul's YouTube channel
.

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