Papa Joe Grappa - Too White to Sing the Blues
When I was a kid, it was Homer and Jethro in country music. Later, in my teens, it was Ray Stevens in pop music. Then, when my children were in high school, it was Weird Al in rock music. These were all talented musicians who would trod the somewhat seldom traveled path of comic music. While there have always been artists who combined both comedy and music, few have ever reached the level of notoriety of the aforementioned acts.

And, since we blues/rock fans can also possess a somewhat twisted sense of humor, enter for our listening pleasure the Los Angeles based blues/rock guitarist Papa Joe Grappa. Grappa is the alter ego of Joe Medeiros, a comedy writer by day-blues/rock guitarist by night. He combines both these considerable talents in creating
his debut release “Too White to Sing the Blues”. The 13 tracks are all Papa Joe originals, his observations of everyday life (what could be funnier than this?) in which he addresses such relevant social issues as plastic surgery produced women, medical marijuana, 21st century teachers’ “pets”, and the misery associated with serving on jury duty among others. However, to insure that this recording is not only funny but also a very credible musical work, Papa Joe has enlisted the aid of some world class musicians. While Papa Joe demonstrates on the recording that he is a serious (and seriously good) guitarist, his choice of band mates on this project is brilliant. As Weird Al depended heavily upon the musical genius of Rick Derringer in his work, Papa Joe likewise calls upon the incredible talents of blues rock artist/producer/sound engineer Alan Mirikitani (BB Chung King and the Buddaheads) for this project. For a rhythm section, Papa Joe would recruit a national treasure and perhaps my personal favorite bassist Gerald Johnson (Steve Miller Band and others) and a most impressive Gary Mallaber (Van Morrison, Steve Miller, Bruce Springsteen) on drums. The keyboard and horn duties are in no less capable hands, as veteran Marty Grebb (Buckinghams and others) handles those roles most admirably. Now for the backup singers, let’s add to the mix the Sweet Inspirations, who from 1968 until 1977 sang behind Elvis. Suffice it to say that all things considered, this is a most ambitious debut recording.

The recording is both funny lyrically and enjoyable musically as well, a feat that is in of itself quite remarkable. The material here is wide in scope, combining elements ranging from blues, cool jazz, 50s rock, and boogie woogie. No matter the style, each track is a high quality recording. I have a lot of favorites on this set, including “Why Didn’t My Teacher Do Me”, “Medical Marijuana” where once again Gerald Johnson displays just how a professional bassist should sound, “Too White to Sing the Blues”, showcasing Papa Joe’s outstanding guitar skills and featuring lyrics in which he laments “my first name ain’t Muddy, my last name ain’t King”, with perhaps my favorite track being the Chuck Berry flavored “Damn Big SUV” in which Joe complains of monster SUVs and trucks, both of which obstruct your view while driving. I have found myself singing this daily on my commute home on the Nashville interstate highway system.

There are also a couple of songs intended to be more serious than the others, "She's Beautiful and She Don't Care", written for Papa Joe's daughter's 16th birthday and "Start Again", a very jazz flavored tune in which Papa Joe recounts his first sighting of the lady who would later become his wife. These too are of excellent quality, and they serve as evidence that Papa Joe is also genuinely a nice person as well as being a talented musician and writer.

It’s all good, cleverly written and splendidly performed by everyone involved and has earned the Bluesrockers “buy this unless you are completely anal” seal of approval. The CD is available from numerous online suppliers including Amazon.com or by visiting Papa Joe online at www.papajoegrappa.com.


Tom Branson



The band:

Papa Joe Grappa - guitars and vocals
Gerald Johnson - bass
Gary Mallaber - drums
Mary Grebb - electric piano, organ, baritone and tenor sax
Alan Marikitani - producer, engineer, tambourine

Tracks:

1. Manmade Woman - 2. Too White to Sing the Blues - 3. Why Didn’t My Teacher Do Me? - 4. Jury Duty - 5. Medical Marijuana - 6. Altar Boy Blues - 7. (You Get) Old If You’re Lucky - 8. Damn Big SUV - 9. Married Man Blues - 10. Bedbug Boogie - 11. She’s Beautiful and She Don’t Care - 12. Start Over - 13. Them Starbucks Blues


2005 Papa Joe Grappa

© Bluesrockers 2005