The release of "Person to Person" in October 1998 followed on from Paul Judge's success in reaching the Acoustic Guitarist of the Year finals in 1997. "Person to Person" is a mixture of original songs and covers, including two jazz tunes, all appropriately arranged to suit Judge's impressive guitar and slide work. The vocals are also tuned to suit the material. So, on songs like Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle," and Lightnin' Hopkins' "Home In The Woods," for example, Judge adds extra intensity by singing in a rasping smoky voice.
Of the seven original tunes on "Person to Person," two are instrumentals. The first of these, "When You Need Somebody," is a hauntingly beautiful piece. It highlights the more delicate side of Judge's playing, and it is no wonder it was selected for BluePrint magazine's 1998 "Best of British Blues" CD. In contrast, the following "Gambler's Blues" (another original) portrays a more brooding mood which blends together elements of Son House and Mississippi Fred McDowell.
Judge's songwriting achieves a very high standard throughout. If there wasn't a listing of the composers in the CD insert, it would be easy to wrongly identify several of Judge's tunes as being from the pre-war period. Each sounds fresh and original, however, rather than simply being a re-hash of an old standard.
A Pacific Island feel is added to Duke Ellington's "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me." Judge arranges it as an instrumental with slide guitar substituting for the horn solos. The mood on the other jazz tune, John Coltrane's ballad "Naima," is more Spanish, wandering along the edges of flamenco, without ever crossing over completely.
After "Naima" the album concludes with another couple of cover versions. The guitar work at the start of Willie Dixon's "Too Late" (normally associated with Little Walter) is very clever. Initially it appears somewhat discordant, but things becomes clearer when you listen to the rest of the tune: Judge is using the guitar to provide the response to his call of "It's too late". The last track is Bo Diddley's "Mona," in which Judge relies heavily on the amplification to add a highly atmospheric feel to the song.
Paul Judge is a highly accomplished guitarist, thoroughly deserving of the plaudits he keeps receiving in the British Blues press. "Person to Person" is a very good album which aptly demonstrates his considerable skills. His talents have been acknowledged by Guitarist magazine, which recently asked him to write and record a monthly slide guitar column for them. And who am I to argue?
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This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.