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Read This Review Or Die . . .

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Paul Pena. . . without ever learning about one of the greatest musicians of all time.

His name was Paul Pena.

Forget reading on! Just go out and buy his album New Train right now. I guarantee you will like it, it’s that good. Then come back and finish reading about his story. It’s a good one.

You know the song Jet Airliner by The Steve Miller Band? Well, Paul Pena wrote it. His version, the original, is better, and you’ve never heard it — until now (listen to it and a few other songs at MySpace). Back in 1973 he penned New Train, his second album, which, unfortunately for humanity, wasn’t relased to the public at that time. It is one of the greatest albums I have ever heard. Jet Airliner was on that album. The Steve Miller Band heard it and covered it.

Fast forward. Pena hears a broadcast of some throat-singers out of Russia on his ham radio. Curious, he tracks down someone who knows WTF he was listening to. It turns out the singers were from a small Asian country called Tuva. After more researching, Pena proceeds to teach himself the peculiar form of singing. One night, after Kongar-ol Ondar, a famous Tuvan throat-singer, performed in San Fransisco, Paul Pena got a chance to show him what he had learned. Ondar was impressed and invited Pena to compete in a throat-singing competition back in Tuva. A documentary film crew came into the picture at this point and followed Pena to Tuva. The film Genghis Blues documents Pena and his victory in Tuva.

Thanks to the awareness Genghis Blues brought to Pena, New Train was finally able to be released . . . in 2000. The album is classic blues-rock goodness. Jerry Garcia guests on a couple of tracks. To date, I have yet to play this for someone and had them not like it. This is a masterpiece. No question.

His later works are also great. After learning throat-singing he began to incorporate it into his blues-rock stylings. It makes for a very unique sound — although it might not be for everyone. Some of the throat-singing featured in Genghis Blues has the singer, Kongar-ol Ondar, doing three separate rhythms in his throat at once. Pretty amazing stuff.

Paul Pena died in October 2005. He has left us with an amazing story and some amazing music that the world has still yet to discover.

Oh, and by the way, the dude was also blind.

Now go buy New Train.eihcnerf

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, August 2, 2006 11:19 am

    All right, jeez. You win.
    I checked eMusic, New Train‘s on there (as is the soundtrack for Genghis Blues). Listened to some samples, very nice right from the start. It’s downloading now. I’ll report back in the future, upon hearing the whole thing through.

  2. Wednesday, August 2, 2006 10:49 pm

    Okay, I’ve listened to it. No doubt: it’s a fine album. Good call, Frenchie. Thanks for the tip.

    Say “thank you” to Frenchie, everyone.

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