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Thursday, October 7,2010

Good luck and great style

Paul Geremia has the right stuff to sing the blues

by Meghan Spork
(Thursday, Oct. 7) Serendipitous. That
is how Paul Geremia would describe his journey into the world of folk and blues
music.

In
the 1960s, many blues singers and folk artists were making a comeback. These
artists that had recorded in the 1920s and 1930s were being rediscovered.
During this time, Geremia lived in Rhode Island, not too far from the budding
scene. He had the chance to see many of these performers, such as Mississippi
John Hurt and Skip James.


“There
was a lot of music happening, and I just got involved,” he said.


Geremia
was enrolled in agriculture college at the University of Rhode Island, but
eventually decided that his passion for music was more important. He started
going to New York to play professionally, auditioning at coffee shops and other
venues. He met Patrick Sky, one of the first folk singer songwriters and a
contemporary of Bob Dylan, at a show in Massachusetts. After the show, Sky was
sick and asked Geremia to drive his car back to New York. In return, Geremia
could spend some time in the city, stay with Sky and become familiar with the
club scene in New York.


Geremia considers this to be his big
break. Sky suggested he record with Folkways Records. Soon enough, Geremia had
a tape for Moses Ashe, a Folkways producer who had recorded artists like Woody
Guthrie and many other prominent jazz singers and folk players. Within a week
of giving Ashe his tape, Geremia was offered a recording contract.


Through
Sky, Geremia also met many of the most knowledgeable and talented people in the
New York music scene. Geremia started playing shows not only in New York, but
in Boston and Cambridge as well. He did not have much money — or a car — so he
traveled by taking any public transportation he could, including hitchhiking.


“The
times were conducive to that kind of life more so than now,” said Geremia. “You
could get from coast to coast for about a hundred bucks.”


Geremia
now owns a car, but has never stopped travelling and performing. For over 40
years now, he has been living solely off the fruits of his musical labors. In
the process, he has formed a style very much his own. He believes his style is
an amalgamation off all the people he has heard. He calls it a finger-picking style
that is a combination of East Coast and Delta styles.


Geremia
will be coming to Lansing’s Elderly Instruments to teach a workshop on country
blues guitar styles on Tuesday, Oct. 12; the workshop will be preceded by a
free in-store concert that starts at 4 p.m. He wants to provide participants
with a smattering of what went on in music in the 1960s.

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