Halloween weekend is a busy one for live music, lots of options and lots of difficult choices. By the time Sunday evening rolls around, you’ll likely be done with dressing up and partying hard. But, if you’ve still got enough energy to grab a beer and witness two one man bands deliver some seriously powerful tunes made only from pickin’ strings, stompin’ boots and their hardened yet beautiful vocals, do yourself a huge favor and swing by The Low Beat in Albany on Sunday night.
Originally from Lee County, Florida, Konrad Wert, known on stage as Possessed By Paul James, alternates between banjo, guitar and violin while keeping the beat on a stomp box and tugging at your heartstrings with his words. Possessed By Paul James sounds like America. Not the polished up, attention loving, always beautiful, always social media ready one, but the one that is home to long lonely drives, both hope and uncertainty, and both love and broken hearts, the real one.
Mike McGrath, the handsome, welcoming face behind the bar almost every night at The Low Beat, posted on social media after the show’s announce “We are lucky to have this man back in Albany, don’t miss this show! I don’t ask for much, but please come out and support.” McGrath has worked at The Low Beat since it’s opening almost two years ago, and before that, was at Valentine’s for 16 years, he sees a lot of shows, estimating at least a dozen bands a week (and over 20 a week all his years at Valentine’s, when there were two floors with music many nights). For a guy that sees nearly 1,000 bands a year, what makes Possessed By Paul James so special?
McGrath stated, “PPJ is a pretty special act, he is a one man show. He is the kind of performer that takes the whole room and draws them in and makes them stop and listen to his songs. He is a story teller and you want to hear the story.” Seeing as many acts as he does, he knows the ability to do that, to capture the attention of an entire room, bring them in and blow them away, can be quite rare.
Possessed by Paul James’ most recent record, 2013’s There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely, out on Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, landed at #12 on the U.S. Billboard Bluegrass chart. The record gained him attention from NPR and The New York Times, and was the push that allowed to him to move away from his day job teaching.
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Opening up the show is Albany’s own Henry’s Rifle, who undoubtedly has one of the biggest voices in town. If you want to retrace the steps of your wrong doings and look at your sorrows through the bottom of an empty bottle, he’s got a few songs for you. But he’ll make you smile, stomp and yell along in the process, easing the pain and showing you a good time. His full length record, Barroom Weather, was released on Halloween 2014 through the Built4BBQ music collective. Recruiting an array of capital region friends and musicians to translate many songs he only ever intended to be performed solo, into songs that range from feeling as heavy and driving as a train chugging down the tracks full speed into the night, as light and cheery as a fiddle-filed country morning, and as menacing as a boat lost at sea in a storm.
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If you’ve never taken the time to check out The Low Beat, McGrath says, “I have said this since the first night I worked there, you walk in the door and you don’t feel like your on Central Ave. or even Albany. You’re in a room made for music, it not the largest room but it’s cozy.” The interior of The Low Beat is wrapped in wood, walls and ceiling, and when you walk in cozy is definitely how it feels. You don’t feel out of place up in front of the stage, on a bar stool enjoying one of their great draft selections, or huddled at a table chatting with a good friend. On a cool fall Sunday night, step off the street and into a warm welcoming room, grab a beer from Mike, and enjoy a night with a few good brews and music lovers excited to hear two story tellers sing their tales with emotion, style and talent you can can’t ignore.
Possessed by Paul James and Henry’s Rifle perform Sunday night, November 1st at The Low Beat. Located at 335 Central Ave, in Albany. Doors open at 7pm. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased in advance here.
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