Keith Hargreaves - UK-Americana.com
America 2.0 is an extraordinary album that attempts to examine the very concept of what America is in the Trump era and what it means to be part of the great American melting pot. It is massive in its ambition and scope and it very nearly pulls it off. Messinger is patently a very savvy and politicised observer who use his lyrics and devastating harmonica skills to lead his band through a range of styles and tropes encompassing gospel, dustbowl blues, reggae and straight ahead rock n roll.
Opening with the quietly epic title track, the cards are immediately on the table: “Take me to land of the madmen and the poets, take me to the Waffle House at 4am and you will know America.”
On a bed of portentous harmonica and piano, the song is stately and epic but soon dissolves into a ragged rhythm before returning to its conclusion with the repeated refrain: “Mine eyes have seen the glory, take me to America.” ‘The Speaker’ is straight ahead reggae with a dusting of the magical harp, ‘Device Dyslexia’ a slow groove complete with mid-seventies Moog sounds punctuated with spoken word verses and as such sounding a little too muddled.
Messinger rails against his president in the track ‘Lady Liberty’, a funky slow number with a sassy vocal and the killer chorus: “Lady Liberty show me the land of the free… gimme some Common Sense and Courtesy and Decency .. you shouldn’t be grabbed by the pussy” This is repeated and ends with an angry plea. Great stuff.
If this album has a fault, it is that there is so much here, of some many hues that it needs to be listened to, not just consumed, and that is no bad thing. Messinger has a lot to say and it is absolutely worth listening to on both a musical and intellectual level.
Paul Messinger (a singer-songwriter /musician from Chapel Hill, NC) focuses on telling tales about people in the world around us. A broad variety of stories can be found on Messinger’s recent album America 2.0: Assorted Tales & New Myth. In his songs, you feel his passion for American history. Paul Messinger explains himself as follows:
“America 2.0 is a song-cycle about the ‘idea’ of America…What is this place we call America?...Who are these people we call Americans?...The idea of America has, for over two centuries, drawn the hopes, dreams and aspirations of mankind to these shores…Let us go then, you and I, and begin-again to explore the place(s) peopled with that idea… “
From the album’s opener, "America," you hear Messinger’s talent as a harmonica player. He is a devoted student of Howard Levy, following his style of playing on a diatonic harmonica. Howard Levy is not only a harmonica player / multi instrumentalist, but is also the owner of Balkan Samba Records and was also one of the founding members of Béla Fleck & the Flecktones ("The Sinister Minister"). In the song “America,” Messinger’s playing is very gentle, but the harmonica melody becomes the backbone of the song.
To promote the album and the song, Messinger asked friends to send him their photos and videos about "their" America. Josh Hardt included the responses in an accompanying video, which sums up the song well and is (through the attached link) definitely worth viewing. The video seems to be a response to a number of questions.
"Device Dyslexia" humorously paints a picture of Messinger's battle with contemporary technology, while "Lady Liberty" throws a forward-looking and somewhat cynical glance at our current politics. "Psycho Yuppie" uses an upbeat rhythm to paint a dark story about a man who does not respect his wife. Another striking song, "Death Do Not Have No Mercy," was recorded live at The Arts Center in Carrboro, NC. The track is driven by a bluesy melody that is colored by the harmonica solos of Messinger and guest Joe Filisko.
"Blameless" is a tune about things people do, about the plans they make, and "The Ballad of Roy & G" is about a funky fictional weekend night that someone has to go through without drugs, alcohol and violence. "So tell me what we gonna do on a Saturday night? ... Do the Funky White Boy!" "The Apple Song" is a reggae track about the monotony of work, and the album’s closer, "The Mystic Chords of Memory," is a song about battles that need to be fought again:
“ The better angels of our nature, in every heart and every heart-stone. ‘Cause somewhere, far beyond the night, somewhere, not far there’ll be a stronger and brighter light… Somewhere… AMERICA… America… take me to America! ”
Paul Messinger opines: “take me to the land of madmen and the poets, take me to the Waffle House at 4 AM and you will know America…” America 2.0 is a trip worth taking! With Paul Messinger’s America 2.0 one discovers an America that was previously unknown.
--Eric Schuurmans (rootstime.be)
PT Gazell Review
To throw around phrases like “landmark” & “groundbreaking” always seem a little Hollywood to me. However, sitting down to review Paul Messinger’s newest... project, “America,” I don’t know what other adjectives fit better.
Perhaps thoughtful… the title cut “America” pays testament to that. Paul sets the stage beautifully for what follows with this composition.
Maybe relevant… “Device Dyslexia,” really sums up most of us these days.
You could say poignant… “Blameless” is highly emotional and touching without being cloying.
Of course, it’s timely… “Iowa” hits the mark every time I watch the National news. (Love the play on words at the end of this one!)
Then again, we could look at Paul’s skills as a producer. He sees the big picture so much better than most artists who indulge themselves with solo after solo. Paul picks his spots and showcases his chops with restraint and taste.
Oh yeah, he wrote or co-wrote all the material as well. Each song ties in with the previous one and makes the listener pay attention.
The sonic quality of this CD is first class and then some. I have had the aural pleasure of hearing Paul’s CDs get better with each release and this one has raised the bar again.
Being a fellow harmonica player, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Mr. Messinger’s style is like no other I am aware of. Part Blues, part Funk, part Reggae, part R&B, truly his own and just plain good.
One other note…. I can’t think of anyone that gets a better recorded sound on the diatonic harmonica, but that’s a whole other subject. I will sum it up by just saying, well done!
Ok…I threw out several adjectives but can’t really think of better ones than “landmark” and “groundbreaking.”
There, I said it! Kudos Paul…Kudos.