Kevin Pakulis & Larry Lee Lerma:
Boondocks Lounge, Sunday, Jan. 9
We've had a rough couple of days," Kevin Pakulis said, summing up the complex web of emotions his audience pushed through to join him on Sunday evening. "Everybody takes tragedy differently. Let's take a moment of silence to think about all beings that suffer, and the causes of suffering."
A pool ball caromed and clicked in the background to break the silence, and then Pakulis began to play a poignant guitar instrumental, "Trusted," that seemed to articulate a glimmer of hope within brokenness and despair.
The tribute behind him, Pakulis started anew with, "Happy New Year, everybody! It's gonna be a good one."
What followed were two sets of songs, including many from his recent release, Shadesville, and from an acoustic duo album recorded with his onstage partner, blues bassist Larry Lee Lerma.
Pakulis' best songs capture the details and emotions of small moments in the lives of folks you might meet in bars around our town—like the Border Patrol officer wearing a starched uniform in "Land of Plenty," or the genial family pot farmer in "Uncle Harlan," or the man of simple means and pleasures in the classic "Yeah Yeah Yeah," or someone who could be that same guy on the road in "Dying by the Moment."
Occasionally, Pakulis tells stories between songs, too. On Sunday, he was warming up for a reservations-only, one-man show of stories and songs at 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 16, at Triangle L Ranch in Oracle.
Pakulis and Lerma reminded us repeatedly of the best of us—the talent, hard work, beauty and capacity for joy that are overshadowed in times of crisis. Lerma's fingers appear to move as fast as he thinks, and his ideas are all but endless. Pakulis' own songs stood comfortably next to those by giants of the singer/songwriter genre, like Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away," and Mickey Newbury's "Why You Been Gone So Long." The whole room celebrated—in spite of itself—the extreme chops the pair played off of each other in an unforgettable performance of the Blind Willie McTell classic "Statesboro Blues."
"The whole world is watching," Pakulis said, "and we have to send out a message of love."
Kevin Pakulis: Press
Kevin Pakulis Band
I've learned a simple way to determine if I'll have a long-term relationship with a new album. On first listen, is there at least one cut I must immediately experience again?
Kevin Pakulis' recent release Shadesville got me to listen twice, and two more times. This tasty 10-cut disc features Pakulis' ripping guitar work, with organ and piano virtuosity by Duncan Stitt and rhythm from bassist Larry Lee Lerma and Ralph Gilmore on percussion.
The first cut that hooked me was Dying By The Moment. It is great instrumentally and lyrically with one fabulous line after the other about a time in two peoples' lives when living was edgy and thumbing rides to places like Shadesville was rote. Top cut of the last several months for me! I can relate to it, remembering being broke, broke down and having fun despite being utterly irresponsible and lost in the great West.
The music here, as is true for Pakulis' 2004 release Yeah Yeah Yeah and Mockingbird Radio in 2007, reaches into and utilizes genre after genre. From a quirky and fast rocker about everything flying off the handle (Outa Hand) to a beautiful country ballad about the sacred nature of the grave of a dearly departed (Uncle Harlan) and on to a slammin' honky-tonk number Heavy Load - there isn't a weak track on the album.
Kevin Pakulis Band
“Harder, Faster, Louder” opens this collection of ten, somewhat rowdy, occasionally bluesy and almost always introspective, rockers. And while that sentiment doesn’t quite define Pakulis’s fourth release, it does reflect much of the character of an album aching to be blasted from a good car stereo. In fact, it’s hard not to be struck by how much of a guitar album this is with Pakulis providing any number of different textures, sounds and rhythmic interplay between the other players, the songs and him. On tunes like “Heartache” and “Outa Hand” his command of the instrument is obvious while the Allman Brothers-like jam in “Uncle Harlan” and the Stevie Ray Vaughn soaked power chords of “Losin” speak for themselves.
Ultimately however, songwriters like to be remembered for their songs and there are at least three that make this project special. “Dying by the Moment” is a medium tempo story-ballad where melody, lyric and presentation all come together in a way that transports the listener into the middle of a relationship. “50/50 Deal” is separated by its vocal hook and because, it’s so damn fun to listen to. Finally, “All’s Forgiven,” a Latin flavored acoustic gem, shows us what a kinder, gentler Pakulis is capable of, with his nylon string guitar supported by Duncan Stitt’s accordion sounds.
Stitt, in fact, who plays keyboards throughout, seems more prominent on this recording than others, his organ work in particular adding layers of sonic colors and tone while Ralph Gilmore, one of the southwest’s finest drummers and Larry Lee Lerma on bass, make for a rhythm section that is arguably second to none.
shadesville... Kevin's full band follow up to 2007's mockingbird radio. Great collection of songs that combine Roots Rock, Americana, and Blues with hooks and storytelling that has a Southwestern sense of place. Great guitar and piano chops with rockers (2,3,8), ballads (3,9), and even a track (6) which could be classic Grateful Dead. Rated 9 out of 10.
TUCSON'S PAKULIS TURNS ON 'MOCKINGBIRD RADIO'
“I finally figured out that there was this wonderful creative process that I was missing out on. So I started trying to write and wrote a bunch of bad songs, got some good feedback, and kept at it. Eventually I began to say what I thought I wanted to say, in a way I thought I wanted to say it. Pretty cool when I turned that corner.”
And did Pakulis ever turn that corner, winning first place in the Tucson Folk Festival songwriting competition in 2004 and winning kudos in the often critically vicious alt-country 'zine No Depression, which said Pakulis “outright nails it. His music represents the best of a genre.”
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BUDDHA IN THE ROCK
TUCSON WRITERS AND ARTISTS RESPOND TO TIME IN THE WILDERNESS
Pakulis' song "Jaguar Blues" is the book/CD's highpoint, one of many references in the various works to the mysterious borderland jaguar who is known to haunt the area. "I'll keep an eye on your Sky Island home / If, Buddy, you could spare me a home," sings Pakulis. "I'm asking for a place I can roam / Won't you kindly throw a big cat a bone?"
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Is "mockingbird radio", the second album from Tucson singer/songwriter Kevin Pakulis, "one of the best Americana albums of the year"? Upon listening, this is easily a contender for one of the best so far. What struck me about Pakulis' music immediately was the conviction in his guitar and vocals, kind of a cross between Warren Zevon, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. ...His songs make you want to cheer, laugh, cry, and perhaps go back to the times when you lived in a similar way. The guitar riffs are deep and tasty, and Pakulis is the kind of guy who supplies music that becomes "the soundtrack of your life", or a time worth reminiscing about. A feel good album for those that remember how to feel good.
...I've been playing Kevin Pakulis' "mockingbird radio" and like it a great deal. I love the way his songwriting tends to teeter halfway between literal and symbolic narrative. And the thing that really struck me was that he sounds like his physical demeanor, not in a contrived way, it's completely natural. This immediately lends substance. It has his lanky looseness, those langorous, muddy, authentic chops, a deceptively casual lyrical component, that lazy phrasing and delivery like a southwestern Lou Reed or something, even Iggy Pop sometimes.
Tucson, AZ local Kevin Pakulis offers up a greasy, gritty, socially conscious music. He mixes a voice that is more melodic than Jon Dee Graham with guitar playing that would make Billy Gibbons proud. This rocking roots record, with a bit of mescaline desert experience coloring the fringes, is filled with sing-along choruses, sliding guitar, and a muscular beat.
It starts out with a bite, and closes with a soft finish, just like a fine wine. Ahh, but this is better than fine... it's 41 1/2 minutes and 10 cuts of well composed lyrics. It's full of depth. It's gritty yet gentle. It's rootsy n' bluzy with elements of soul, americana, and inspiration. It's downright Wonderful!
The thread of Southwestern flavors from his debut CD, "Yeah Yeah Yeah", is carried over. Not to mention the same talented back-up band, Duncan Stitt, Ralph Gilmore, and Larry Lee Lerma, along with a few additional players:
Bo Ramsey does some fine slide guitar ( minuteman ), Dante Rosano blows some tasty trumpet ( minuteman ), and just the right amount of squeeze-box from Gary Makender ( mother's day ).
Kevin spends 4 minutes+ on a message to the "minuteman" ...along with that comes his personal 'war is not the answer' message directed to the President including the Chorus of Discontents belting out "...YOU don't get it"! It's a strong sentiment.
As I mentioned earlier, this CD is tough, yet tender... and full of depth. Damn, it's good!
Kevin Pakulis is an award winning songwriter and his second CD, "mockingbird radio", includes lyrical topics from the political to the deeply personal. His musical style includes the influences of blues, country, and rock, and his band includes some of the best musicians in Tucson. When Kevin sings, the heat and grit of the desert... the creosote-laden breezes... come through in his voice.