Written by Rovert H. Cataliotti
In her song "Louisiana Bride", singer, alto saxophonist, harmonica player, singwriter, and bandleader Paul Rangell sings:
"Down in South Louisiana,
Way over in the hills on the Northshore,
A little house stood one hundred years in the woods,
Where my husband's mother was born...."
Today, Paula lives in that little house outside of Covington, Louisiana, with her husband Chuck Flower.It is her dedication to performing hard-driving, funky, electric post war blues and R&B with Paula and the Pontiacs that led her there. Paula will celebrate her fortieth year in the driver's seat of the Pontiacs in 2018, and it hasn't always been an easy road to travel. Yet, her absolute mastery of the idiom has begun to garner her some laurels. In 2016 she received the annual "Slim Harpo Music Award" in the pioneers category, which recognizes "one who has endured and carried blues music forward." That description perfectly fits four decades of leading "Paula and the Pontiacs."
Also in 2016, paula's recording of "Harmonica Girl" was selected as the lead track for the critically acclaimed two-disc set "Blues Harp Women" (Ruff Records).
She has taken the Pontiacs out on the road for gigs ranging from the "king Biscuit Festival" in Helena, Arkansas to shows in Sao Paulo, Brazil. After moving to the North Shore she began working at all kinds of back-road joints out in rural Louisiana. And her "Live at Ruby's Roadhouse" (2000) is a rocking document of an incendiary blues and R&B show by "Paula and the Pontiacs."
Like Everyone, Paula has faced hard times, including two experiences that left their mark: "Life isn't without tragedy and of course, Hurricane Katrina made me lose my apartment in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina did kill a number of my friends in one way or another. and made elderly people like Chuck's mom and dad frail. They passed away too; we were down the road from them and caring for them through those years.
The breast cancer episode I went through in 2008 and 2009 did affect my ability to really be out there or to finish the "Louisiana Bride" CD made in 2007, which came out in 2009 properly. It is likely that the blue and R&B she continued to play with "The Pontiacs" helped her carry on through these difficult times. Over the years, Paula has always recruited top-flight musicians for "The Pontiacs". As she recalls, "I once took a piece of paper and wrote down all the names of guitar players, bass players, drummers and piano players and there were 1000 musicians that had been "Pontiacs" at one time or another. ..And it still goes!"
Paula takes great pride in the contributions the "Pontiacs" sidemen have made to her music, and the bands that she assembled for the three albums from which this compilation draws its tracks testify to a woman who has a clear conception of how she wants her blues and R&B to sound and the ability to shape these bands to execute that conception. And considering that she's doing this in what is definitely a man's world, it is genuinely admirable what this lady is putting down. In addition to her tremendous vocal and instrumental talents, "17" is a showcase for Paula's songwriting, clearly exhibiting a way with words and a facility with shaping classic blue and R&B grooves to bring those words to life with maximum effect.