A Loner in Triplicate: Old Paint

Sittin’ on down, Old Paint is a little teacherish for his years, but he’s solid without taking himself for his own statue. A Brooklyn guy with 6 pairs of eyes and a heart that won’t lie, a little nasty beauty with a mounting, barking rhythm, he discovered himself in West Humanity in the country of Self. Gaunt, tall, GI-jacketed, Old Paint twanged out rich imagistic guitar in the New York coffee shops. He could afford to be hard and ironic, learned his wounds well, and some of the world’s dishonesty, while in New Jersey stir for 6 years on an armed robbery count. Is subtle as well as lavish. Shy as a shadow also, with a fiendish jollity rising up within the prison walls of his hard-earned loneliness and individuality. You rarely see the cat’s gleaming eyes behind his mother-loving sunglasses. Spooky-real Old Paint! Old Paint is the real thing. Once wanted to be a theoretical physicist but gave into the muse and began his very inside, real, stylish, lethal ultra, honest, terse, hurting in that way that counts. Jail in Frisco, fighting and dodging Arabs in Israel, getting pickled in Harlem. His pants are always three inches to short for his shoes – he’s awkward blue, but, as he’d say, he’s got a good sound. Proper isn’t bright with the bitter glitter of missile-age precocity. Old Paint could be tender, nutty, lyrical, when the mood mooded him. Way down shack town, Old Paint ‘s stuff runs like drunken faucet. Urchin looking, street-bred, his playing gives his living-room style the lie. Full of unexpectedness and unclassifiableness, off beat imagination to burn. A glitter of contradictions, closetful of skills, a dead-end kid commonsense. He’s honest about wanting the dollar and bitter in his appreciation of its Lordship. A flinty, sardonic wiseguy complete with brain. A nice guy with a touch of nasty.

 

Refusing to talk about his Commy past, he flirts with preciousness and never yields, sure sign that intelligence has pinned artifice to the mat, sure sign that we are witnessing the real stunning thing with this unusual kid. Knock-your-eye-out, he could play his way out of a locked trunk at the bottom of the Hudson River. Minority snipers think that if he brought a little Dreiserian holy corniess to his hipness he’d have it made. An extremely hard-working and probably demonic cat under some mighty slick icing.  Best in short takes, he dazzles because of the unforced grotesqueness he shows in our hallucinatory beyond-Mars, cosy little modern world. His chords build like a storm. Skinny Girl Shoe Shine was cut with the cool eye of a rifleman; his second Skin Lowdown Buggy Ride Lover Gal never got the attention it should have; his last Poor Folk Gold Teeth almost didn’t because it was thought to be too dirty for even a dirty age. He stands in an odd relationship to the corner kids of his generation, more inner, older tireder. He has a gnarled maturity encased in a golden boy façade. He has the aware calculation of a deepsea diver; it could and might go deeper. Gentle, fidgety, huge-bearded, he still puts out a wild lick. Old Paint went back in jail for violating his parole – the poor sucker fell in love and got married, which is of course against Democracy’s penal laws. Preacher say his future is an X but his present is inspiringly real. He broke out in 92, and last heard was in Athens, jazzing, playing roulette, making a carnival out of this sweet mystery of life. In a modest way, Old Paint is a credit to the human race, a true lunar talent rising amongst the skyscrapers. His fever is that of thousands, but nobody of his age threw the sick room back at life as he did, and thus redeemed us as well as himself. Society’s fangs await his beautiful phantasmagorial songs, if only to insure their validity; but he who plays the atom age much have a price on his head. The stakes demand it. More power and joy to him.

Barnyard Slut, October 2002