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Courtyard Concert Series | Paul Benjaman Band

Though it’s only been a couple days since I got a copy of Paul Benjaman Band’s new Sneaker, it hasn’t left my car’s CD player and shows no signs of budging. The album mixes rootsy rock with unexpected rhythms and time signatures, somehow managing to keep you on your toes while always remaining laid-back and cool.

Benjaman is as capable of mind-boggling guitar licks as his idol, Steve Pryor, and it goes without saying that he and his band are modern purveyors of the classic Tulsa Sound. Last year, he and Tulsa drummer Patrick Ryan appeared on “The Tonight Show” with The Secret Sisters. Benjaman welcomes a new guest musician each week for his Sunday Night Thing at The Colony and will play a special Halloween show, Night of the Living Shred. On Saturday, Nov. 7, the band will play the 2nd annual Horton Records Rock n' Folk n' Chili Cook-off at Cain's Ballroom. You can also catch Benjaman at Cain’s on Nov. 15 for The Leftover Last Waltz. The event benefits the Woody Guthrie Center’s youth music education programs, which are taught by Benjaman and other local artists.

In anticipation of his recent Sneaker release party, Benjaman played the Voice’s Courtyard Concert Series with Bo Hallford on bass, Andrew Bones on drums and Jesse Aycock on guitar and lap steel. Everyone in attendance—the band, the entranced crowd and my grandmother included—sunk deep into the groove.

Best way to spend a Saturday: [laughs] This has become a controversial question. No comment. Next question.

Currently listening to: Pixies’ Bossanova. I’ve just found it to be this unrecognized masterpiece of angular rock.

Favorite local hangout: Colony would be too obvious. I mean it is. And if it’s not Colony, it’s Cellar Dweller, no doubt. I’m best at concentrating on just one person, and the Cellar Dweller allows me to do that, if I’m trying to get a conversation going. I’ve never been really great at group conversations. I like to concentrate on just one, the individual. And that seems to be the Cellar Dweller’s theme.

Most memorable show I’ve played: There have been so many. The first one that comes to mind was the one that we actually did for the Voice with all the Tulsa Sound guys [The Voice’s 2015 Best of Tulsa Party at Cain’s Ballroom]. That was it. I was just coming in from a South by Southwest showcase, and there was no rehearsal. We all just get there at sound check, go through the tunes, hastily make a set list, and everything just went so great. Those guys lived up to the legends that they are. That was a good moment. And listening to those guys tell stories as they were setting up their gear—just all kinds of stuff that you couldn’t believe happened, but did.

Three albums I’d need on a desert island: J.J. Cale’s Troubadour. ZZ Top’s Degüello. And Broncho—Just Enough Hip to Be Woman. They should’ve gotten a Grammy for that. They just shoulda.

People might be surprised to know: Good lord. [laughs] I have a music degree.

Best show in Tulsa ever: It would have to be—and I only know this ‘cause I’ve got the bootleg tapes from this—Steve Pryor, Route 66 Roadhouse, December 2006. I’ve got those bootlegs, and I’m hangin’ on to ‘em. ‘Cause his albums are great, but that’s where every tune is clocking in at six minutes and it’s just him at his best, just totally railin’ it. 

The whole reason I dropped out of college, the first time—actually the second time when I was going back for more of it—I heard him playing and just said, “Why don’t I just put all this effort into following him?” He’s always doing things that you’ve never seen from any other guitar player. He just leaves you going, “How’d you do that?” 

You can sit up front, you can watch his hands, but still to this day he’ll pull stuff out that I can’t believe—“How did that happen? I’ve never heard an amplifier make that sound, and this is great!” If the world was right, they’d just give him a mansion on the hill and let him do whatever he wants. He’s an American treasure.

Music is: In the end, it’s the purest of religions, because the note transcends all language barriers, and it reaches all people the same.

For more on Paul Benjaman, read Mitch Gilliam's review of Sneaker.

Looking for more from our Courtyard Concert Series? Check in with Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.