Friday, May 25, 2012

Paul Openshaw - 40 years on, still enigmatically superb

Very curious. In the (with hindsight) odd and innocent world of early 1970s Scottish evangelical folk and rock (now THERE'S a niche!) Paul Openshaw was someone spoken of with reverence and a degree of awe. He was the first person I had ever seen who owned and played a Dobro (a proper one, too, none of your imitations). Always the best of we strummers and pickers, the most questing, and the most dangerous and adventurous in songwriting. By the time we met and he was playing University Christian Union gigs, he was slipping away from Godworld, and describing the experience in painful, devastating songs such as Backslider. Which, to say the least, confused the unregenerate Plymouth Brethren among us.

He was at agricultural college, I think, down near Ayr. And then, he was gone. A decade later, so was I. And then, nothing until a few contacts via Facebook over the past year. Paul appeared to be in Dorset, involved (at a senior level? - I don't know) in agricultural feed production. And not only still performing and playing, but, as far as I could tell, still regarded with reverence and awe in his locality.

Yesterday an album arrived called The Potting Shed. Just acoustic guitar  - DADGAD tuning - and some funny, acerbic, sometimes very moving and powerful songs. That voice, slightly smoothed out and less ragged and scratchy than back in the day. And the only album I've sat down and listened to twice through in succession for, oh...a long time.

The guitar playing was always great. Now it's world class. Some internet investigation  - and it seems Paul lives a life below the Google radar, for the most part - indicates that he's a bit of a guitar guru these days, conducting seminars on his approach to tuning.

The curious thing about the album is that it's so clearly the work of that boy 40 years ago. Someone who never stopped practising, never stopped learning, never stopped writing. Never stopped living. So songs like Swallow (Nick Drake via Robin Williamson) and Maybe Love cut very deep. While the brilliantly funny and joyous Bucket on His Head represents the comedic side I remember from the 70s - I can't get nowhere with these shoes/I can't get nowhere with these feet/but with a new soul/I could walk right into heaven...

No idea how you can get the album. There are only 200 copies and Paul's website  - - doesn't work. If you're in Dorset, look out for him at pubs and festivals. However, I did find this on the Acoustic Guitar Magazine site, and some of the songs here are not on the album. A couple deal with the distant past I've talked about. They are wonderful.

Have a listen.

1 comment:

Paul J Openshaw said...

Website works now and there is a shop facility!
Profits from first 200 CDs will be donated to Orphans and Disabled Arts Association in Cambodia.
All the best,