New England's Paul Geremia fingerpicks way from 'Providence River Delta' to Oklahoma

When thinking of blues music hotbeds, the typical locales likely careen through one's mind: Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas " but what about Rhode Island?


The tiny state is home to blues/country fingerpicking guitar virtuoso Paul Geremia, who brings his eclectic and entertaining style to Oklahoma City for a Friday night show at The Blue Door.

While Geremia freely admits the uniqueness of being a bluesman from New England " he frequently jokes he "was born in the Providence River Delta" " it hasn't stopped him from becoming one of the most talked-about acoustic blues guitarists currently touring the country.

In fact, in some ways, he feels his location has actually helped him steep in the blues scene.

"At the time I got into this type of music, there was a lot of segregation still going on," Geremia said. "The fact I was living up north, it allowed me to hear the black musicians who were being hired to do concerts around therem because there wasn't a place for them to play back where they lived. So, they came up to places in the north that revered traditional music and would watch them play with the respect they deserved."

It was during this formative period in his musical life that he was able to cross paths with those who would later become the singer/songwriter's mentors and influences, sometimes even opening for them in concert. All of their music and styles went into the amalgamation that became his particular version of the blues.

"I heard Mississippi John Hurt in 1964, and he really changed my life," he said. "Before that, I had a friend whose father was into Chet Atkins and fingerpicking, and I watched him play " with envy.

"(My style) is pretty much a combination of a lot of different people " guys like Babe Stovall, from Mississippi and New Orleans, who did the coffeehouse circuit back in the '60s when I met him in Providence. I learned a lot from him, and also guys like Tommy Johnson, Skip James and others."

Geremia estimated that he spends about half his life on tour, and describes his music as a combination of all his influences.

"It's kind of hard to dissect your music to the point where you can attribute every nuance you play to something or someone else. It reaches a point where I can't tell if I made something up or if it's similar to something I've done before," he said.

Geremia has built a reputation as a topnotch bluesman, songwriter and a living encyclopedia of early jazz and blues music. His intricate style of fingerpicking on his six- and 12-string guitars " combined with an occasional harmonica to complement his husky voice " has created long-lasting fans at his many stops throughout the country, as well as in Canada and even Europe.

He has released 10 solo albums, the most recent being 2004's "Love, Murder and Mosquitos."

In all, Geremia's had a pretty good career for a blues musician who didn't have many geographic peers or an established scene within the blues "hotbed" of Rhode Island.

"It's just the best music there is," he said. "When I first heard it, I just fell in love with it. You don't have to be introduced to a beautiful woman to fall in love with her. The music just got a hold of me."

Paul Geremia performs at 9 p.m. Friday at The Blue Door, 2805 N. McKinley. "Jeremy Cowen

  • or