Some cats can play the blues. Some cats is the blues. Meet Jesse Pagano. He’s both and more.
From Patchogue, Long Island, New York, Pagano is the former lead man for Karmasutra, one of the tri-state area’s leading jam/reggae/funk fusion concepts. He’s cashed the band in along with the rest of his chips to get out and tour nationwide behind Common Ground, his new, still smoking from the presses collection of dangerous acoustic originals and well-plucked covers.
The surprisingly vibrant Patchogue scene has its core leaders. Pagano is one of them, along with Chris P. Cauley, who co-produced and engineered the record in his Patchogue studio with Pagano and Keith Moore. The crystalline simplicity of Pagano’s intricate and dynamic fretwork along with his thunderous and throaty vocals has yielded a disc that is by turns elevating, haunting, desperate and urgent. In its totality, Common Ground is simply a moment – a perfectly timed snapshot of pure integrity and anger.
Common Ground has all the soul and sanctity of Dylan’s World Gone Wrong wrapped in the smoke and whiskey, shit-kicking gospel of the Kings of Leon and the Mississippi romanticism of the late, great Jeff Buckley.
A weeks-long stay around the midnight musical campfires at the Kerrville Music Festival in Texas this past summer pushed Pagano to the point of no return. Pagano was never a pretender, but Common Ground catches a man whose got the “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” all around him. The Delta voodoo vibe now infuses his every move.
On “Stepping Stone,” Pagano cries because he already knows he’ll be left behind. “It Never Ends” is a passionate sickness, a spiral of frenetic despair. During his wonderfully original take on the classic “Spoonful,” you can taste Pagano’s taste. His funk for the junk is real.
Pagano is a storyteller, a minstrel, a troubadour and a vaudevillian. Common Ground is his soul laid bare, yet swaddled in rich references to traditional, powerful American musical forms. When you hear Pagano sing and play, you just know he’s been driving wide-eyed for days. He’s not reading the map – he is the map.
Ultimately what you get with Common Ground is the very real sense that Pagano is ready to throw it all away and go for broke.
If he hasn’t already