Phil Minissale (Young Fool)
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Phil Minissale (Young Fool)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"Review: Phil Minissale and Friends Impress at Grounds & Sounds By James Haag"

Regardless of age, few musicians in this day and age now fly the flag for roots music.

But then again, few do it the full justice it merits.

A fervent but humble disciple of the form, Phil Minissale's journey began 10 years ago and about 30 miles outside of Philadelphia in the suburb of Downingtown, Penn. – when and where he first picked up a guitar.

He said his approach to the instrument – a roll-and-tumble fingerpicking style, adept at either steadying or swinging – made lessons more than a minor challenge. Electrified bluesmen like Stevie Ray Vaughan had forged a style that proved popular among many budding guitarists, but Minissale's tastes were decidedly different. He gravitated toward older, acoustic-driven blues styles, especially the down-home flavors of Piedmont and Delta, embodied by legends like Blind Willie McTell, Blind Blake, Robert Johnson and Son House.

At first strictly an instrumentalist, the singer/songwriter (at 24, he's arguably still quite young) said listening to a set by folk legend Dave Van Ronk (also a seminal influence on Bob Dylan) gave him the impetus to find his voice: a textured baritone that radiated warmth and charisma (even at full volume, a rare and welcome surprise) across the emotional gamut of his songs. Lyrically gifted to boot, his plain-spoken, clever-without-trying manner gave the set added heft.

Now performing live for seven years and currently on a 14-city tour that included Friday evening's performance at the Grounds & Sounds Cafe at UUFSB, his talents have only been sharpened by his commitment to the road. Joined onstage by the equally talented contrabassist Craig Akin, Minissale's deliberately stripped-down instrumentation helped the intimate tone of the songs shine through, from the dreamy meandering of "I Know Love" (one of several featuring Akin's well-judged use of a bow) to the slow-burning "You Make a Mess of Me" and the minor-key jangle of "Home to Me" – also the title of his first album, released in 2008. His latest, Young Fool, was released last May.

Exploring life's lows, especially when love goes wrong, naturally gives the blues a lot of its pained power. Minissale never failed to capture and convey the feelings his outstanding material demanded, particularly on songs like the bleak, brooding "Smart Enough to Run," the measured catharsis of "Let Me Explain," and the faithful Loudon Wainwright cover "Motel Blues."

However Minissale's blues, once exorcised, granted him solace and even elation. At one point, his awareness of this led him to joke after the gutbucket thump of "Love Blues."

"This might be a very bipolar experience tonight," he said, laughing. "It's funny that I find myself smiling after that."

The gifted singer/songwriter makes his fourth appearance on the cafe's stage.

A break between sets allowed a spirited performance from other talents, including local singer/songwriter John Myles (his songs ranged from the scathing "Corporation Man" to the tender "Wisdom of the Flowers," where he made joking asides about buying flowers for St. Valentine's Day), joined by electric guitarist Eli Maniscalco and saxophonist Carl Ogrib.

Receiving praise from Myles, Minissale returned the favor, covering Myles' song "Invisible Man" and inviting Ogrib onstage for a final song. As an encore, Minissale and Akin finished the night with another cover – this time, Bill Withers' soul classic "Use Me."

With his father Steven joining the crowd that night, the younger Minissale admitted his parents were, at least at first, somewhat apprehensive of his life as a touring musician. But the appreciation from the crowd was confirmation enough that his path was as clear as ever.

"They recognize my talent and they have faith in me," he said, smiling yet again.

By James Haag - Three Village Patch


"Long Island Pulse Magazine"

"...he's got the soul, and he's got the chops to get it across to his listeners. The soul of his guitar is juxtaposed by his youthful vocal quality, which is actually quite refreshing, not to mention encouraging to any bluesman of the twenty-first century." - Richard Jordan


"Acoustic Live Magazine"

"Phil is known as the "Blues Boy" (he's 20 years old) of Long Island (NY) and with good reason. He shows a deep understanding of finger-style patterns and rhythm, and has all the tools to put that understanding on display." - Richard Cuccaro


"Good Times Magazine"

"...listen to him pick just once, and you’ll rank him among the best acoustic players in Long Island.” - Syl Nathan


"The Long Island Blues Society"

"Phil has a flair and a warmth that seems to flow straight from his soul." - Doc Blues


"90.1 WUSB, Stony Brook University"

"His growth in stature as a musician in this area has been quick, indeed, and he is now very much a member of the performing blues musicians on Long Island."
- "Sunday Street" w/ Charlie Backfish


"91.3 WVKR, Vassar College"

“Top notch guitar work and engaging vocals!”
- "Thin Air" w/ Jay Spica


"103.9 WRCN, Long Island"

“It does my heart good to see a young man, like Phil Minissale, playing the blues and doing it well! He’s walking in the footsteps of folks like Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Blake…with an old Gibson strapped to his back! Phil’s got the heart and soul of an ‘old bluesman’ along with the drive and enthusiasm of a young musician just starting out! I’ve got the feeling this kid’s going places…and thankfully he’s taking us along for the ride.”
- "Graveyard Blues" w/ Jerry Schaefer


"Me&Thee Blogspot"

http://meandthee.org/blog/txp/blogspot/116/getting-to-know-phil-minissale - Kathy Sands-Boehmer


Discography

EP- Self Titled - 2006
Home to Me -- 2008
Young Fool -- 2010
Ghost Inside -- 2013
Feel So Good (Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee Restrospective) -- 2013

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Bio

Phil Minissale floats above genres but never necessarily falls down into one. His influences range from Folk, Blues, Soul, and Pop. At just 26 years old, Phil is a seasoned performer, appearing at music venues, folk clubs, festivals and colleges from Maine to Georgia. Phil’s cross generational appeal has many folks watching very closely as he exposes his generation to his acoustic sound. Combining contemporary songwriting with the traditional finger styling of the blues & soul, Phil is cultivating a whole new and much younger audience.

Out on the circuit, Phil has attracted the attention of many veteran musicians as he continues to expand his audience and appeal. Having already shared the stage with John Hammond, Paul Geremia, Steve Forbert, Little Toby Walker, Hubert Sumlin, Bill Morrissey, and Eileen Jewel; he is now sought after as a feature performer, and rightly so, having been reviewed by magazines, radio DJs, music venues and writers across the United States, Europe and Australia.

With the recording of his third full CD "Ghost lnside"; Phil continues to build bridges between various acoustic genres, keeping the traditional integrity of the music in tact, while breaking new ground with his timely songwriting.

Contact and Booking: booking@philminissale.com

"Young Fool"