Paula Boggs Band

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What the critics have said:

“The record [album Janus] includes deeply personal themes of ancestry, memory, and love. The storytelling on this record will pull you in, but it’s the musicianship that ultimately takes center stage, thanks to an elegant, groove-laden soundscape crafted by an all-star backing band." - No Depression

"Boggs captures a

What the critics have said:

“The record [album Janus] includes deeply personal themes of ancestry, memory, and love. The storytelling on this record will pull you in, but it’s the musicianship that ultimately takes center stage, thanks to an elegant, groove-laden soundscape crafted by an all-star backing band." - No Depression

"Boggs captures a raw nostalgia ...that might catch you by surprise. She has created a gentle groove for your heartache." - Americana Highways

‘This Seattle combo dubs its sound “soulgrass,” since it combines bluegrass and Americana idioms. [“King Brewster,” Track 4] is a story song telling of Paula’s enslaved ancestor in Alabama and his journey through the postbellum Jim Crow South. Flemons, a veteran of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, shares lead vocals. " - MusicRow magazine

“The harrowing, chanted chorus [of Ponies] is immediately followed by verse after verse from Boggs, as she weaves soul, bluegrass, country, and even a little bit of jazz into a beautiful yarn about finding the romantic side of life in any given circumstance." - Billboard

"["Ponies is a]n ambitious charmer that curates with Dylan "Desire" era multi-dimensional expressiveness along with storied lyrics worth continually revisiting." - Glide Magazine

“Rewriting the bluegrass story from a black perspective." - AmericanaUK

Read more…

Paula's Blog

February and A Black History Month Story 

Paula Boggs Band was at local community radio station KBCS-fm, having just sung “King Brewster,” the true story of my ancestor’s journey from bondage to freedom, when our white DJ, Iaan Hughes, sprung the question to white multi-instrumentalist band member Darren Loucas, “I hope this doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but how does it feel to sing those lyrics as a white man.”

“Those lyrics” include,

“His [white] confederate [half] brother bequeathed a pocket watch. As if that could compensate for all King Brewster lost by the color of his skin and hum of cotton gin.  No escape from breaking back, burning flesh, being tracked down.”

When I wrote King Brewster my focus was poetry, melody and mood, not performance. I wanted to be honest and honoring.  I hoped the song would educate and entertain.  Most decendants of America’s enslaved realize how rare it is, even in 2024, to document our  ancestors’ stories so as someone who, relatively speaking, knows a lot about mine, I felt and feel an obligation to share a rare gift so as to better humanize America’s original sin.

Finishing the song I hoped Grammy-winning folk artist and historian Dom Flemons would sing “King Brewster” with me.  Dom said “yes” so when you hear the recording ‘those lyrics’ are sung by a Black man.  Our album release shows featured Puget Sound’s veteran folk musician Reggie Garrett, another Black man, whose rendition was so poignant it almost felt like Reggie was taking us back to the 19th century. All of that was great but of course the band wanted to perform “King Brewster” in our regular set list, meaning a band member would need to sing those lyrics if the song was to continue living as a duet.

When I approached Darren, my only advice was to make it “his.” Darren is a veteran multi-instrumentalist well known within Seattle’s music scene. Depending on song, his voice can lean towards Tom Petty, Rodney Crowell or Towns Van Zandt. His singing voice is a storyteller’s and when you hear it, you believe the story.  Honestly, that was more than good enough for me and before we arrived at KBCS, neither Darren or I had thought much about the profoundness of him singing those lyrics.  Once Iaan Hughes posed the question though, I couldn’t unring that bell.

I now consider it rare, powerful, beautiful, raw and healing when Darren, a white Ashkenazi Jewish man, sings those lyrics.  Not long ago Darren had a family emergency so I turned to his sub, Dave Swaintek, a white genial banjo-slinging US Army veteran who sings with an “O Brother Where Art Thou” Appalachian-hollering vibe.  My advice to Dave also was to make it his own — no mimicking Dom, Darren or anyone else. I told him the most important thing was to sing so the audience believed hebelieved what he was singing. And that he did…so much so the crowd gasped at the end of our performance.

Not all of us are descendants of people enslaved on American soil but many of us know hardship and resilience.  And if we don’t know it personally, we can respect the road traveled by those who do know it. Acknowledging this connection makes us less mean, less jaded, more empathetic, more in community, more human.  Thank you Darren and Dave for your vulnerability and authenticity. I now believe, those qualities are not only the most important for singing “King Brewster,” but perhaps therein lies a key to more humans seeing fellow humans as…well just that…human.

VIDEO LINK: https://youtu.be/53TVXngDWgg?si=HPDI7FQfaY26n1AZ

Musings on Newport Folk Festival 2023 

Don’t get me wrong…I loved Newport Folk Festival’s music…some of it blew my mind…

For me though the festival’s most magic moments arose from human connection…watching Randee Fox, my spouse,  discover an artist, the security dude who cracked jokes while wanding us, volunteer Ella who walked us to the right stage, hugging former Seattle musician Mongé Whitney minutes after her stellar Black Opry Revue performance, bumping into Tucker Martine — who produced our album “Janus” — and his lady, bumping into Janine Small —an entertainment lawyer I know who introduced me to Chance Emerson, who turns out to be a student of Vicenza American High School classmate Sheila Haggerty — Randee and I’d just had brunch with Sheila — who teaches at Brown — and her husband Paul.

Last night we connected over dinner with Joe Miller, son of college classmate Gale Berkowitz, and Sam, Joe’s friend since childhood. We not only compared festival notes but also celebrated Joe’s recent Yale graduation and new job with yummy food, drink and conversation.  

After Randee and I returned our rental car, I recognized the guy seated across from us on the shuttle, knew I’d seen him at the festival but couldn’t further place how I knew him. After I said “weren’t you at the festival?” He responded, “yes! I’m Jody!” Jody Whelan, head of Oh Boy Records, and son of the late great John Prine. #smallworld 🌍

What Inspires Me to Write a Song? 

What inspires me to write a song? Sometimes it’s a most reliable muse.  It could be what I see, hear or touch while walking. Maybe it’s something I read in the newspaper, a book or online. Every now and then I stumble upon something while cleaning a closet. That’s what happened yesterday. Rediscovering an old photo at the end of Pride Month🌈 inspired me to write. Bill Quinn was a friend of mine who died of AIDS.  Not sure if this is a song, poem, spoken word or even finished. Just seems right to share it NOW.

Waking Up to Sad News 

OCTOBER 2022: I woke up this morning to sick and sad news out of Memphis. Yes, I believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I also believe in USA Today reporting and their track record to try to tell it like it is. I grieve for Memphis, the victim and her family. I am a lifelong runner and when I slip on my Hokas and take off in my neighborhood, I assume I’m coming back.

From all accounts I can find, Eliza “Liza” Fletcher was a good woman. Only 34, she was a grammar school teacher, one of our nation’s noblest professions. She was a mother of two and a good spouse. I don’t care what race she was or her assailant’s. Her killing was evil.

We’ve become corse and numb to violence in America. We “other” each other literally to death. Name calling is normalized. It’s sick. Rule of law must prevail here. I’m praying for it. I’m also praying for Liza’s children and those she taught. I’m praying for her entire family and the City of Memphis. I’m praying for all runners and walkers, regardless of race or gender. We deserve safe passage. I’m praying for America.

Pride Month 2022 

Every year during June the global LGBTQ+ community and those who love/support us celebrate in a variety ways, take stock, recommit to justice, march, advocate and honor the struggles, sacrifices and deaths of those who came before. Why June? Because it is when the Stonewall Riots took place in 1969. 

Twenty years after Stonewall I came out to myself, family members and close friends after meeting my now spouse. I was scared. At the time I was Roman Catholic and a federal prosecutor. I still am also African American and back then that community wasn’t home to a lot of support for my new one. Regularly gay people were fired, denied housing, not allowed to adopt, assaulted, sometimes arrested and surely not able to marry. Matthew Wayne Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, was beaten, tortured, and left to die near Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998, nine years after my spouse and I got together. 

The LGBTQ+ community has come far but our human rights gains are fragile and under attack.This Pride Month seems different, more urgent. Love is love. The fight goes on. I am a soldier.🌈💯

Inspired by Pride Month I made this playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/32vER5lJhTNWTxkWZg58fd?si=WH1kO9ZWT8Oy6-u6HCN97g

A Songwriter’s Take on Mass Shootings and Hate Crimes 

Not all mass shootings are hate crimes and not all hate crimes are mass shootings. But when they intersect something particularly cancerous cuts America’s soul and sullies all pretense of America as “shining city on the hill.”  

As a songwriter I’ve been drawn to the cancer. Inspiration for 2017’s “Benediction” came while driving from Bend to Eugene, OR, through the stunningly beautiful Willamette National Forest while listening to President Obama eulogize Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of nine Black victims of a hate crime massacre, killing 9, at Charleston, SC’s Mother Emanuel AME Zion Church on June 17, 2015, moments after the parishioners had welcomed the supremacist monster into their prayer circle. 

More mass shootings and hate crimes happened between June 2015 and October 18, 2018, but when Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue was attacked by an anti-Semite leaving 11 dead and 6 wounded, including several holocaust survivors it cut deep. Maybe because my spouse is Jewish. Maybe because I’ve seen the Dachau Nazi concentration camp. Maybe because it was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States ever. A mere 6 days later and 400 miles away another hate-filled gunman gunned down three African Americans, killing two, at a Kentucky Kroger’s. These two hate crimes in a single week led me to write 2022’s “Shadow of Old Glory.” 

Admittedly “I don’t have answers” but as our song “Peel the Charade” also says, “we need each other to mend.” Finding a cure for cancer is more complex than mastering the engineering and physics required for spaceflight. But that doesn’t stop the medical profession from trying. And so it is. Let’s fight the urge to go numb. When we give someone beyond our “tribe,” whatever that tribe is, the benefit of doubt, we move the needle away from hate and towards light. I mourn for the victims, their families, the City of Buffalo and America. I don’t want to write another song about a hate crime mass shooting either.

Reflections on 64th Recording Academy Show 

These are my personal views. I thought Sunday’s show was its best in years. Was it flawless? No. Were there a few unfortunate winners? Sure. I’ve been a Recording Academy voting member for a decade+ and a PNW Chapter board governor for two. I’m also my chapter’s ambassador to the Recording Academy’s national DEI Council. 

I take my job as a voting member seriously. It dishonors the work of my peers to do anything less. And yes, the Recording Academy awards are the result of creators/engineers/producers/crafts people, etc. judging the works of peers. It is not a popularity contest for me. I don’t check to see who’s #1 on Billboard or some other chart. I choose the categories I vote in carefully and listen to the music. After listening and comparing I vote. If you’re doing it authentically it is arduous work. 

Most nominees and winners become such because of what 12K+ individual voters collectively decide (a recent reform). When you say “the Grammys” got it wrong, you’re actually saying more individual voters than not got it “wrong.” I can’t speak for other voters but I’m listening for musicianship, the quality of lyrics where applicable, whether a piece really “fits” its genre and how a song makes me feel. All highly subjective.  

As the Recording Academy’s membership becomes more generationally, racially, culturally, geographically, gender and overall diverse that diversity will be reflected in its voting. For those eligible for membership who choose to criticize outside the tent, that’s on you. #music #diversity #grammyawards #grammys2022

Finding Sacred in Music Amidst a Horrid News Week 

I wasn’t sure…having bought tickets months ago, confident in my Pfizer vaccine, Seattle’s high vaccination rate and before “Delta”became a household word.  Reading about the beefed up air filtration system at Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, the show’s proof of vaccination and mask mandates gave more confidence. Fremont Abbey Arts Center, the show’s sponsor and its volunteers we’re totally buttoned up and professional. I sprang for the “reserve” seating, up front, not only to see Haley Heynderickx and The Milk Carton Kids better but as an added measure of caution…more space. 

As soon as Haley opened her mouth, singing and playing Cat Stevens’ “Morning is Broken” I was transported to a new world, more hopeful and sacred than that other one outside the cathedral’s massive and ornate doors. Waif-like in appearance, Heynderickx is funny, exudes generosity, authenticity and OMG has a young Joan Baez voice that accompanies serious John Fahey-esque guitar chops.  She is a beautifully ironic lyricist too. I could have listened all night to this amazing opening act, wanting way more. First time hearing her live, I’ll definitely come back. 

The Milk Carton Kids did not disappoint. Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale make harmonies evoking Simon & Garfunkel, the Everly Brothers and masterful dueling acoustic guitars make the complexity of their voices weaved together all the more stunning. They are also very funny…almost Smothers Brothers-esque for those old enough to remember. They too, more than once and heart-fully each time, expressed gratitude for being able to share their art, at this time, in such a sacred place. 

At the end of a horrific news week, in the healing and transformative power of music, masked community within a holy place, I found “peace.”

A Review of Bob Dylan’s Memoir “Chronicles: Volume One” 

Chronicles: Volume OneChronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s Dylan so not surprisingly the prose is highly lyrical. Honestly I was blown away by Dylan’s otherworldly ability to describe in exquisite detail…color schemes, books lining a shelf, passengers on a train, a shop owner…events of 50+ years ago. It was fascinating and educational to explore, through Dylan’s eyes, his start in music, including his many influences. Though I knew about Woody Guthrie’s hold on Dylan, it was cool to be introduced to the many characters of the early 1960s New York Greenwich Village folk scene, including several African Americans like Odetta and Spike Lee’s dad, bassist Bill Lee. A few times the chronology confused me and frankly I think that was intentional. For example, throughout the memoir Dylan refers to his “wife” without a name. Unless you know Dylan’s biography you’d have no clue he was talking about two different women and the second one is African American. Even if you’re not a Dylan fan though, it’s a wonderful read. 

View all my reviews

A New Dawn...2021  

We could not script 2020 and it tested us. Reminded of those lost, seeing Kobe Bryant’s name provoked...”was that really this year?”...his pre-COVID-19 death seemingly eons ago. Families, communities, a nation, a planet...all challenged, upended and many suffered incalculably. We were called to think different, do different, be different and many of us did just that — how we work, play, create, shop, eat, go to school, socialize, exercise, heal, celebrate, vote, marry, worship, die. The human spirit can be an amazing thing. 

The band will record/release it’s 4th studio album in 2021 and Covid-19 willing we’ll travel to Portland, OR to do it in March.  These  ten original songs were written or re-imagined after the pandemic isolated us. It will be an album of story-telling and musically grounded in the folk tradition with hints of jazz, gospel, bluegrass and other roots music influences. At a time when the African American story has taken a front row seat in our consciousness, many of these songs serve as windows.  We will use mostly acoustic instruments though a song or two might be accented with something electric/digital.

We can’t wait to make this art and share it with all of you!

May Your 2021 Be Blessed.❤️


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