Buzz- California dreams: Paul Curreri inspired, inquisitive on newest album

paulcurreriWhy do we put things on pedestals? Sometimes Paul Curreri thinks it's better not to know.

In the UK, articles about Charlottesville musician Paul Curreri typically begin by introducing him as Americana singer Devon Sproule's husband. While we'd prefer to not do that here (oh wait, we just did), the relationship between Sproule and Curreri is inevitably the first hook to draw listeners to the other's work. The duo's Charlottesville Valentine's Day show garners a wide fan base off that single annual performance–- but the linkage of the two musicians generally shudders to a halt there.

While Sproule's work is drenched in pastoral Central Virginia imagery and sultry feel-goodery, Curreri's art comes from a vocally experimental, swarthy space, and this holds true on his sixth full-length album, the thirteen-track California, set for release early next month.

As an exploration of ideals, the record interweaves Curreri's personal struggles with a healthy dose of questioning why we believe in what we do.

"The song 'California' is about putting things on pedestals–- if I were to investigate more deeply why something's put on a pedestal, I would realize it wasn't worth putting up there," Curreri explains. "You have to be careful to retain your ignorance on certain things."

The album was born out of an ironic health struggle. After quitting smoking about two years ago, Curreri began experiencing throat problems with pain so severe that he was left unable to sing. Three times in consecutive two-month intervals, he canceled tours before realizing that going smokeless was harming his career–- and possibly his body. And singing was no cure.

"After the third cancellation, I knew I had to stop," says Curreri. "And two weeks after that I woke up realizing I was feeling better than I had ever felt as an adult," Curreri says. "It was just fantastic, and resulted in the somewhat positive record that California is."

Curreri went a year and a half unable to sing, but says his writing flourished as a result of his "unbelievably peaceful year."

Nine months into his throat hiatus, Curreri was able to sing in short bursts around his house–- so he began putting lyrics to the songs he had been composing in late 2008 and early 2009. Each track on the record was recorded the day it was written, yet there's a unified sound. The album flows with each song a variation on the last.

"There's a certain sense of play that exists within these songs," says Curreri. "I wasn't making a record–- this is a documentation of someone connecting to something, having a really nice time."

If the state of California conjures images of untroubled, sugary pop-sweet beach scenes, that's not the California heard here. By stamping his darker, instrumental aesthetics over the stereotypical sunshiney sheen California casts over a psyche, Curreri transfixes, provokes, and simultaneously soothes his listener.

So what if our "healthy" decisions cause drastic set-backs? Sometimes what we lean on the most isn't really there, and on California that's okay.

Paul Curerri releases his sixth full-length album, California, Saturday, August 7 at The Jefferson Theater. Nathan Moore opens. The show starts at 7pm with tickets $10-12.