Paul Wassif
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Paul Wassif

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Blues Folk

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"Ex-London Cowboy rounds up the guitar heroes."

Bert Jansch rates Wassif as a guitarist enough to ask him to open for Jansch at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall last year. No surprise, then, that the influential Scot guests on this, Wassif’s debut solo album. Eric Clapton is also aboard, the two guitar heroes recording together for the first time on such tracks as Wassif’s Please Don’t Leave and Big Bill Broonzy’s Southbound Train. So far, so newsworthy. As a singer, Wassif is all silk and sandpaper, delivering an amalgam of tender folk, blues and country. Again, this is surprising, in view of Wassif’s past career, which includes a spell spent with punk outfit The London Cowboys and a stint that lined the Bristolian alongside Jerry Nolan and Sylvain Sylvain. It’s an out of the ordinary release for a new label launched by Stephen Lyttelton, son of the much missed Humph.

Fred Dellar
Issue 215 - October 2011 - Mojo


"Venerable gunslinger to the stars makes his solo debut"

Not many jobbing musos can boast that they have personally been encouraged to join planet-troubadour by Bert Jansch, for whom Wassif has already recorded with, and Eric Clapton. Both guest without fanfare here.
Having already eked out a living playing in London and New York punk bands (alongside various members of the New York Dolls no less), and working alongside Bernard Butler and Beth Orton, he certainly has an enviable CV to flaunt already.

Certainly Wassif’s most commanding weapon though is his textural and tasteful playing; his masterful picking style, added to the mumbling vocal that are both not a million miles from Mark Knopfler’s (particularly on I Missed it All’, ‘900 Miles', and also the atmospherics of the instrumental title track).

Mostly based in the blues and country styles, Wassif saves his most impressive 6-string displays for acoustic and slide guitar atmospherics and melodies rather than lead guitar histrionics. Taking cues from rearranged traditional songs, as well as subdued originals, Wassif shows himself more than capable as a songwriter. Some of the more pedestrian acoustic blues numbers (‘Blues Stay Away From Me’, ‘Lonely Highway’ and ‘Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘Southbound Train) feel quite ordinary, and unnecessary blues plods. However, the folky ‘Rosemary Lane’and ‘I Missed It All’ with its Robert Quine-like guitar phrases, and the Jansch-penned ‘Build Another Band’ raise the game.

Elsewhere along this particularly languid and comfortable ride, the beautifully wistful ‘Please Don’t Leave’, a conversation between a father and son, is a cut above in songwriting terms. Heartbreakingly beautiful chord changes and melodies whisper behind Wassif’s troubled story, and is wonderfully reminiscent of Tom Freund’s best ballads.

Wassif’s wonderful playing is a pleasure to hear, and his honest gruff tones add an air of authenticity. His newfound freedom as a solo artist will surely see yet more growth in his already solid songwriting.

Ian Fildes
July 28, 2011 - Americana UK


"Paul Wassif - Looking Up Feeling Down Album Review"

This is a treat for guitar enthusiasts everywhere. Enticing both Eric Clapton (aka Slowhand, aka God) and Bert Jansch (aka Bert, aka God), into the studio at the same time is probably something that is seriously well overdue. Both are celebrated guitarists, one known for being a rock and blues pioneer, especially when it comes to the electric guitar (Fender or Gibson), whilst the other is known to millions of guitarists who have ever tinkered with an acoustic guitar in the folk genre. Here they are together for the first time, invited to collaborate on a couple of songs with mutual mate Paul Wassif. This is Paul's debut solo album after stints with The London Cowboys and various members of the New York Dolls. LOOKING UP, FEELING DOWN gets back to basics with some delightfully bluesy acoustic guitar, with two songs featuring Clapton and Jansch together, Big Bill Broonzy's Southbound Train and Wassif's own dreamy Please Don't Leave.

The Bert Jansch connection doesn't end there by any means. On Build Another Band, a Jansch original, familiar to those who recall with affection Bert's Santa Barbara Honeymoon period, Wassif re-designs this mid-1970's calypso as a Californian freeway radio-friendly foot-tapper, providing the album with more than a suitable opener. Then, tantalizing the Jansch aficionados further, Wassif sneaks in a pretty faithful version of the traditional Rosemary Lane, a ballad synonymous with Jansch, who probably in turn nicked it from Anne Briggs.

The folk and blues fare is pretty evenly balanced with a beautifully crisp take on the traditional 900 Miles together with swamp-soaked arrangement of the Delmore Brothers' Blues Stay Away From Me, which comes across as more JJ than Cale himself. There are two instrumentals, both composed by Wassif, the Jansch inspired Preacher's Trick and the title tune Looking Up, Feeling Down that closes the album, both demonstrating an understanding of understatement.

Joined by Robin Clayton on double bass, Evan Jenkins on drums and Seamus Beaghen on Hammond, together with contributions from Lynn Glaser, David Watson, James Watson and Steve Counsel, LOOKING UP FEELING DOWN is a fine and mature debut, not just for guitarists, but for everyone.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky
August 10, 2011 - Northern Sky


"Paul Wassif - Looking Up Feeling Down Album Review"

Formerly of Bristol punks London Cowboys and many years playing sessions with Sylvain Sylvain from New York Dolls, Wassif's made plenty of friends along the way. Two of them happen to be among the world's finest guitarists, Eric Clapton and Bert Jansch. It was they who suggested it was time he made an album of his own.

Thus this rootsy blues collection of originals, covers and trad material, delivered in Wassif's mellow whisky and nicotine voice with an equally relaxed guitar style that, together, suggest a meeting point between Ronnie Lane and Mark Knopfler.

Jansch and Clapton didn't just prod him into the studio, either. They joined him there. Jansch, who wrote the infectious shuffling country blues opening track Build Another Band that highlights Wassif's slide work, plays on several tracks, and, in a recording first, is joined by Clapton for both the slurry laid back Wassif-penned ballad Please Don't Leave and, with Clapton on dobro, the sleepy cover of Big Bill Broonzy's Southbound Train.

However, it's testament to Wassif that you could remove the celebrity contributions without affecting the album's quality. It takes craftsmanship and individuality to stop your eyes glazing over when confronted by another version of folk blues chestnut 900 Miles, but, stripped down to guitar, dobro and drums, this is a spooked, lonesome treat.

Likewise, his fresh arrangement of trad folk number Ballad of Rose Donnelly and original numbers like the world weary, country flavoured I Missed It All and the simple solo acoustic beauty of Lonely Highway make this a glowingly warm listening experience.

And, if you listen to his fingerwork on the album's two self-penned instrumentals, the medieval classical folk stylings of Preacher's Trick where he's joined by Jansch, double bassist Robin Clayton and Evan Jenkins on drums, and the solo acoustic title track, you'll realise it was as much a joy for the two legends to play with him as it was for Wassif.

Mike Davies August 2011 - netrhythms.com


"Paul Wassif - Looking Up Feeling Down Album Review"

If you're a British blues guitar player and you can have a photo on your debut album cover which shows three guitarists in the studio together, you've got to feel pretty chuffed if the two extra guitarists are Bert Jansch and Eric Clapton. It's a huge recommendation of Paul Wassif's talent, which has seen him journey from the youthful blast of punk rock to this beautifully mellow and expressive country blues style.
Playing acoustic, electric and slide guitar (with a bit of banjo and dobro along the way), Paul Wassif's style on every instrument slips down like the very smoothest of whiskies, till you feel happily suffused by the mood he engenders: this is a very healing sort of blues, a place to rest your worries for a while. The notes flow easily and beautifully from one to the next and he's one of those musicians who always seems to have time in hand, floating with the feel of the music, never rushed at all.
More than half of this album consists of songs and tunes written or co-written by Paul Wassif and his theme seems to be that when the troubles come in life, take your time, don't despair - and in all times be true to the people who matter to you. In the liner notes, there's a heartfelt dedication to the people closest to him ("without you I'd have nothing to give, with you, I've got nothing to lose") that captures the tone of his writing perfectly. Apparently, Paul works as a counsellor for a charity, Rehabilitation of Addicted Prisoners Trust, and it's easy to imagine how that work would inform his songwriting, as well as how much playing this music would give him the space to come to terms with the troubled lives that he's involved with.
The old songs covered here include two railroad songs (900 Miles and Big Bill Broonzy's Southbound Train), but it's fair to say that Paul's own songs stand up really well, especially Please Don't Leave, one of the songs that features assistance from Messrs Jansch and Clapton. There's a knack for a beautiful melody in Paul's music, which runs from the direct pull on the heartstrings in Please Don't Leave to the elegant flow of his instrumentals - which have a definitely English pastoral beauty to my ears. The only thing that undermines this album is the reticence of Paul's vocals; it's a whisky and cigarettes voice that suits the music fine but he never seems strong enough to really take charge of the song - we have to strain a little to catch what sometimes sounds like an apologetic murmur, and it feels like there's a bigger voice in there somewhere just waiting to be let off the leash. That guitar playing, though: you'd forgive a lot to hear the beauty in Paul Wassif's playing and it's easy to see why his big name mates encouraged him to strike out on his own.

John Davy
August 7, 2011 - Flying Shoes


"Paul Wassif - Looking Up Feeling Down Album Review"

With his softly-spoken English accent, Wassif takes country blues and falours it with a sultry, litt. This is soulful, life-affirming stuff.

Guitar and Bass - September 2011 - Guitar and Bass


"Bert Jansch sideman Paul Wassif steps into the spotlight with an evocative star-studded solo album"

Whatever else guitarist Paul Wassif might be, he’s no prima donna: “Up until I did the album i never occurred to me to actually do my own”, he says, modestly.

A former punk-rocker who riffed with member of the New York Doll, in recent years Paul has played guitar as sideman with folk pioneer Bert Jansch - a role for which his blues roots made him well-suited.

“The guys I’ve always paid attention to were sideman, such as Hubert Sumlin”, Paul says. “What they were doing was what fascinated me - be it a two-note thing or a little riff.”

Equally at home playing delicate fingerstyle acoustic or down-home slide on a Dobro, Wassif is also gifted with a rough-grained voice that matches his honest songwriting style perfectly.

Despite there merits, he had no plans to record his own material until long-term friend Eric Clapton and boss Bert Jansch both advised him, independently of one another, to have a crack at it.

“To have them telling me, Look, you need to just do it for yourself rather than playing second guitar to bert...as fantastic as that is...I’m very humbled and glad they did, because it’s been fantastic.”

Wassif says that part of the magic of cutting his blues-infused debut album - entitled Looking Up Feeling Down - was bringing Clapton and Jansch together in session for the first time for cameo performances on standout tracks Please Don’t Leave and Southbound Train.
“We set up the band and we had a drummer to the left of me, bass player to the right, me in the middle, and then Eric and Bert facing me”, Paul recalls.

“We didn’t record parts - we wanted it to be live and audible to everyone. I wasn’t going to ask Eric to plug in a Strat. So I had two Martins - my OO-18 and and OM-42. Eric brought his lovely old Dobro - the one he picked up at Gruhns in 1970 at the insistence of Duane Allman - and one of his OOO-28 signature model Martins.

“Bert travels with one guitar and that’s it,” Paul adds, admiringly. “Recently he was opening for Neil Young around America. I saw him just as he was about to leave and he’s sat there with his one guitar and a bag. He does so many different tunings, but he’s like, Yeah, that’s alright [laughs]. One day maybe I’ll get to that..”

With his debut album complete, Paul says he’s now looking forward to performing the songs live as soon as tour plans are finalised.

“What I love is that moment where I’m sat down with the band and you do it in that moment, live. That’s where it’s at, that’s what it’s about.” [JD]

Passing Notes

Favourite guitarists: Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin

Favourite gear: OO-18 Martin, OM-42 Martin, ’52 re-issue Fender Telecaster

Out now: Looking Up Feeling Down (Black Brown & White)

More info: www.paulwassif.com

Guitarist Magazine - Issue 345 - Summer 2011 - Guitarist Magazine


"Slide-slatethered blues with all-star cameos"

These days there’s no shortage of would-be troubadours working that grizled, voice-of-experience shtick on the blues scene. But what separates the wannabes from the true believers is a certain sincerity and big-heartedness that, fortunately, Paul Wassif has in spades. Of course it helps that he’s got his mates Eric Clapton and Bert Jansch gusting on tracks such as the moving father-and-son story Please Don’t Leave and the freewheeling opener Build Another Band too.

Clapton’s sure touch on his OOO-28 Martin acoustic and vintage Dobro is as smooth as ever, but he;s not grandstanding in any way on the evocative, bluesy turf of Wassif’s songwriting. Like a well-aged whisky, this album is one to savour, and will reward you in spades when you have the time to give it your full attention. [JD]

Standout tracks: Please Don’t Leave, Blues Stay Away From me, Southbound Train

For fans of: Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, Bert Jansch, Derek Trucks

Guitarist Magazine - Issue 345 - Summer 2011 - Guitarist Magazine


"Looking Up Feeling Down - Paul Wassif Album Review"

Y'know, regardless of which guest-stars appear on an album, you just know that sometimes, the music and the song-writing win through. I hadn't heard of Paul Wassif before slipping this into the 19th-century Denon, yet I've come away from this album wondering where this talented bugger has been hiding all these years.
Basically, Wassif spent his formative years in Bristol, riffed his tits off in the punk-spitting London Cowboys, before hooking up with Sylvain Sylvain from New York Dolls for some serious session-work. So I ask the question - where the Hell did this amazing piece of work come from? It's a rootsy, bluesy, sundown comedown of an album that sounds like it was made by a major-label artist on his 12th world-tour and is begging to be played out at a sleepy, woozy but well-attended music festival, sometime during the summer.
But it's not surprising just how assured this man is - he's only got his mates (MATES!) Eric Clapton and Bert Jansch involved! The legends appear on a few tracks on this fabulous collection, lending their assured chops and musical craft to the opening winner, "Build Another Band" (written by Jansch), "Please Don't Leave" and the respectful bluesy cover of Big Bill Broonzy's "Southbound Train" - all three songs being evidence enough of how revered Wassif's songwriting and attitude has been received by his peers, thus far.
But it would be churlish to lob 4 stars at this album, purely on the strength of the guest-stars - this is a thoroughly absorbing exercise in exquisitely-crafted blues-roots in its own right and, if there was any justice, a lucrative one. "I Missed It All" is stuffed with subtle electric-guitar riffs, as indeed are the new takes on traditional songs such as "Ballad Of Rose Connelly" and "900 Miles". But the subtlety of the pretty "Preacher's Trick" and the title track, only serves to remind me of John Abercrombie's less frenetic jazz-noodlings, or even Pat Metheny's most intimate execution - which basically means that Wassif can hold his own as a jazz-guitarist as well as a blues one.
This CD heralds the inaugural release on Black Brown & White, a fledgling label set up by none other than Humphrey Lyttleton's son Stephen, who also took the candid photo of Clapton, Wassif et al for the CD sleeve centrefold. I get the feeling that further releases might have a lot to live up to - you need to buy this, if only to keep the myth and the legend alive. Wassif may not have the most powerful voice in the world, but he does have a bloody fine album under his belt, strong enough to warrant airplay and competent enough to help you part with a tenner to pick this up.

Paul Pledger - allgigs.co.uk


Discography

Looking Up Feeling Down (2011)

Photos

Bio

Born in Bristol, England, Paul’s early career in Punk/Rock band The London Cowboys, followed by various stints in NY bands with New York Dolls members Jerry Nolan and Sylvain Sylvain, could not be more different in style and substance to the melodic country/blues that now identifies Paul’s music.

Paul Wassif’s debut album, ‘Looking Up Feeling Down’ is a collection of self penned songs and reworked traditional classics, distinguished by Paul’s inspiring and versatile guitar work, be it finger picking, slide or electric. This beautifully crafted album features guest appearances from Bert Jansch and Eric Clapton, performing together for the first time, and also features Evan Jenkins, The Watson Brothers, Robin Clayton, Steve Counsel, Seamus Beaghen and Lynn Glaser.

Paul has also collaborated on Bert Jansch’s two latest albums; Edge of A Dream, in a sparkling guitar duet on the track ‘Black Cat Blues’, featured on the soundtrack of ‘Calendar Girls’ and on the highly acclaimed album The Black Swan, Paul performed on three tracks and co-wrote one track.