Possessed By Paul James is the project of multi-instrumentalist Konrad Wert. After two vocal surgeries, he took a break from music. On the new album As We Go Wandering, Wert shows that even after a break, he’s still as good as ever at crafting thoughtful Americana songs.
In just the first three songs, you hear a wide variety of sounds. “Come Back in My Mind” has a distinct bluegrass feel with Wert on the banjo and fiddle while Cary Ozanan plays a beat that sounds like something old soldiers would have marched to. Mady Froncek’s bass line is subtle, but also adds to the bluegrass feel of the song. In contrast is “Your White Stained Dress,” which has the feel of a Jason Isbell song. Mikey Whalen propels the song with a beat that is uptempo but muted. Meanwhile Bobcat Rob Armeti injects a dose of soul into the song with the organ and Joe Kaplow provides some clean guitar sounds. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself listening to this one repeatedly and learning to sing along with it.
“Dance with Me Tonight” is an interesting song in that it is stripped down to fiddle, bass, and drums. the interesting thing is that there are two distinct fiddle parts (one of which is pizzicato), and Wert plays both of them. The pizzicato fiddle part in itself is interesting because it actually feels like more a part of the rhythm section than the melody. This is one of those songs that sounds like it’s being produced by more musicians than actually played it.
Most of the songs lean toward country and bluegrass and are subdued both in tone and theme. The subdued sounds of the instruments somehow make the songs more powerful because it feels like Wert is pouring out his heart to the listener. Still while all of the songs are pretty low-key, there is some variation in sound. Whether it’s the organ in “Your Stained White Dress,” the banjo in songs like “Don’t Tell Me” or Micah Motenko’s mandolin part in “Asleep with Both Eyes Open,” each song offers the listener a little something different.
This is incredibly well done. Wert shows that an album doesn’t have to be loud to be powerful. As with the music of Townes Van Zandt, each of the songs is a story that is well told and thought-provoking. As We Go Wandering will be available everywhere on January 31. Order your copy here.