Singer songwriter and guitarist Paul Wassif is Bristol-born and a former member of punk band, The London Cowboys, also enjoying stints in New York bands alongside Jerry Nolan and Sylvain Sylvain, both of course famed for being members of the legendary New York Dolls. The music here on his solo debut, “Looking Up Feeling Down” is far removed from those days . . . and is a tasteful, melodic mix of country, folk and blues . . . the album taking shape was inspired by his friends, the late Bert Jansch and also Eric Clapton, who both feature here, together for the first time, and championed Wassif’s work.
The 12 tracks are a mix of traditional tunes, some self-penned numbers and apart from Wassif on vocals, electric and acoustic guitars and banjo, also features a core band of Evan Jenkins (drums), Robin Clayton (double bass) and Seamus Beaghen (piano and Hammond organ), with contributions from Robin Clayton, Lynn Glaser, James Watson and Steve Counsel . . . as well as Messrs. Jansch and Clapton, who add their obligatory masterful guitar work.
The gently rolling country-flavoured Bert Jansch song “Build Another Band” kicks things off . . . Wassif’s warm vocal and slide guitar aided and abetted by a lovely vocal harmony from Lyn Glaser. The traditional “900 Miles” is a stripped-down affair with just Paul Wassif’s guitars and vocal, Evan Jenkins drums and harmony vocal from David Watson. His original ballad “Please Don’t Leave” features both Bert Jansch and Eric Clapton together on acoustic guitars . . . it’s a beautiful song, again rich in harmony and beautifully played by all concerned.
The co-write of “I Missed It All”, with Johnny Clare, has a Dire Straits feel, with some tasteful electric guitar from Wassif and the fine piano and Hammond of Seamus Beaghen. The pace relaxes on the gentle amble through The Delmore Brothers classic “Blues Stay Away From Me”, with some sweet harmonica here from Steve Counsel. “Lonely Highway”, penned with David Watson is another little gem, with just Wassif’s optimistic vocal and guitar and harmony vocal from his fellow writer, Watson.
The traditional tune “Ballad Of Rose Connelly” sees Paul Wassif on dobro and banjo, taking the lead vocal and also contributing harmonies with David Watson, and Bert Jansch on acoustic guitar; the following “Rosemary Lane” is another well-known traditional song, with some superb work from the rhythm section of Robin Clayton and Evan Jenkins here. Clapton and Jansch both appear together on a gorgeous version of legendary bluesman Big Bill Broonzy’s “Southbound Train” . . . with the superb dobro of Eric Clapton taking the honours on top of Wassif and Jansch’s acoustic work, and it’s a standout here!
For all lovers of the heydays of the British folk blues era this is definitely worth checking out, not just for the ‘heavyweight’ guests. . . . and possibly the great Bert Jansch’s last recorded work . . . but it introduces a fine new British talent on the scene.
Check out the review on Blues in the Northwest .