(2013 Big Jake)
Holy Christ, Paul Filipowicz doesn’t just play the blues on his new album Saints and Sinners, he positively rocks. From the first measure of the instrumental “Hound Dog Shuffle” Filipowicz brings it. His trademark fiery Chicago-blues guitar playing is not the only thing in full force. Flip sings with renewed passion – like a bluesman reborn – on “Bluesman” and elsewhere while his band, bassist Dave Remitz and drummer Bian Howard, keep the rhythm. Also appearing on piano and organ are Harris Lemberg and Jimmy Voegeli.
At a modest 63-years of age, Filipowicz gives blues players half his age a big run for their money. Even the smoky “Hootin’ and Hollerin” with its “Down by the Bayou”-esque shuffle keeps the intensity up for its full six minutes. The closing track, “Hey Bossman,” leaps out with stunning power and if this were an LP the needle would jump right out of the grooves. I was actually disappointed when it faded out; I wanted it to go on forever.
For particularly inspired guitar playing check out “Fat Richard’s Blues,” obviously dedicated to the late saxophonist Dick Drake who also features on three bonus tracks included on Saints and Sinners. Drake was “a well-known working jazz and R&B professional from the early ’60s on. He played tenor but doubled on baritone and flute with equal ease. He fronted a number of groups playing jazz, particularly ones with Ben Sidran on piano and George Brown on drums, as well as the Fabulous Imitations, an R&B group that included Tracy Nelson (later of Mother Earth) as lead vocalist, which was one hot band while it lasted.” (quoted from an anonymous online tribute to Drake)
The bonus tracks are from Filipowicz’s Lucky 7 sessions from 1982. The production is obviously dated but the playing is definitely not. The hilariously suggestive “Back Door Santa,” a funky blues rendition of the 1968 Clarence Carter composition, is soaked in reverb. The song has been covered by lots of folks, from Bon Jovi to Run-DMC. This is followed by another Carter composition, the seven-minute “How Many More Years.” A one-minute take of Filipowicz’s “Original Texas Strut” is also included.
This is the first release by Filipowicz in six years, the last being the live album Chickenwire in 2007 and it’s been a full nine years since his last studio recording. Saints and Sinners easily ranks as one of his best. Filipowicz is a true treasure, the real deal, and is perhaps the finest blues player to ever come out of Madison. Do yourself a favor (and Paul) and buy this album. Better yet, go see this incredibly gifted guitarist and buy it directly. You’ll be glad you did.