I had to ask — what did Paula Boggs’s dad say when she announced that she was ditching her career as lead counsel for the Starbucks corporation in exchange for a career as a musician? By phone from her home in Washington, Boggs brings me up to speed on the fact that her dad is no longer among the living. “But, like me,” she says, “my dad was in the business of searching the unknown. Uncertainty inspired him to move forward.” The 57-year-old ex-Army paratrooper says that her father passed away in the ’90s. “But I think it would be really cool to have had that conversation with him.”
"Carnival of Miracles"
The title track off of the new Paula Boggs Band record.
Boggs makes a certain kind of urban, jazzy music that seems permanently nested within the structures of traditional folk, bluegrass, and even standard blues harmony. In other words, she’s all over the place. She calls her music “soulgrass,” and she reminds me a little of Gil Scott-Heron, if only for the razor-intensity of her words. Her songs are not taken from any backyard she’s familiar with (during re-election, for example, Boggs worked as Obama’s surrogate at town-hall meetings). No, she sings instead about a life viewed from the perspective of an urban black kid, or about Alzheimer’s, the Newtown shooting, and so on, all done in a croony-rich street voice that is both evocative and easy to like.
But Paula Boggs also comes to the show with a genuine awkwardness, which is probably from not having had enough time onstage fronting a band yet. Some of her themes are underdeveloped while others take too long to ripen. It’s this new singer’s blast of candid purpose that holds a listener’s attention. “I’m compelled to do this. There’s a physical and continual need for me to make this music,” she tells me, “and to share it with my audience.” Gil Scott-Heron, maybe, but with a big-ass grin.
Glen Thomas Band also performs.