Despite the undeniably high quality of his songs (which have been covered by the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Iain Matthews and Waylon Jennings) Paul Siebel is far from being a household name. However, within Folk circles and Among Songwriters, his albums are legendary. If you'll sample some of the music below you'll see why.
Siebel was born in 1937 in Buffalo, NY. Inspired by Hank Williams and Hank Snow, he taught himself to play guitar while in his teens. By the early '60s, after serving in the military, he began playing folk clubs, eventually moving to Greenwich Village, where he found support in the coffeehouse circuit. In 1969, a collections of demos he made with David Bromberg caught the attention of Elektra Records owner Jac Holzman, who offered a him a modest recording deal (reportedly he was only given enough money to finance four three-hour recording sessions). The resulting album, Woodsmoke and Oranges, was met with critical praise from the media, including Rolling Stone magazine. Despite the attention, the album and its equally praised follow-up, Jack-Knife Gypsy, sold disappointingly little. Aside from a live album released in 1981, Live at McCabes, Siebel hasn't released an album since.
Woodsmoke and Oranges
Jac Holzman's (of Elektra Records) assessment of Paul Siebel proved right: Siebel really didn't have the ambition necessary to make it in show business. That, however, didn't mean he couldn't make a great album, so Elektra matched the songsmith with producer Peter K. Siegel and turned them loose in the studio. With a shoestring budget, the two men gathered a handful of fine musicians — including guitarist David Bromberg, violinist Richard Greene, and steel guitarist Weldon Myrick — to record ten Siebel originals quickly. Despite, or because of, the small budget and lack of time, Siebel and company crafted an incredible record that still sounds vibrant 30 years after the fact.
Woodsmoke and Oranges begins with three gems, the up-tempo "She Made Me Lose My Blues," the jazzy "Miss Cherry Lane," and the road song "Nashville Again." Everything works in harmony here — Siebel's songs, the vocals, and the sparkling, multi-layered arrangements. In fact, throughout the album, the arrangements seem to push the singer forward to deliver taut, heartfelt performances. The slower ballads equal the upbeat material, with nods going to "Louise" and "Long Afternoons." Like John Prine, Siebel is a singer/songwriter who has serious things on his mind, but doesn't forget to write memorable melodies to accompany the words. Although he'd never outdo his work on Woodsmoke and Oranges, few artists ever craft an album this good.