Fish Records UK "The Best of 2005"


Ellis Paul is one of the more dynamic folk singer/songwriters around one with a stylistically varied back catalogue that ranges from the trad Boston folk of Say Something through to the experimental Sweet Mistakes; even armed with the knowledge of Ellis penchant for variety, the first listen through to American Jukebox Fables is guaranteed to surprise.

His intimate, emotional and intelligent lyrics are still here, and while his songs are as strong if not stronger than usual, hes expanded his sonic horizons and this collection adds contemporary flourishes and pop sensibilities to his folk storytelling.The opening track is probably the furthest of the 13 from his folk roots, Blacktop Train has a real groove with percussion and syncopation driving a song thats topped off with strong vocals from Ellis and Rachael Davis; while this may well be off his normal beaten track, it doesnt feel out of place or ersatz, its well implemented and shows the versatility and breadth of Ellis skills.Instrumentally this is pretty close to what youd expect from any Boston singer/songwriter, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo etc., but the main differences come in the use of percussion and bass which gives the upbeat songs more drive, but it totally transforms the slower tracks giving them an obviously more contemporary sound.

Lyrically this is as good as anything Ellis has put together, the whole album is obviously inspired by aspects of American life and music, throughout the disc he mentions many 20th century heroes, picks out identifiable US landscapes and passes comment on contemporary life  its a powerful set of images and references that gives the album a real sense of location.This is an album full of striking songs with the obvious highlights being Kiss the Sun and Home. Kiss the Sun is a stunning tribute to Pat Tillman that celebrates freedom of speech and evokes the memory of Martin Luther King, Woody Guthrie and Lenny Bruce  its a great song with excellent guitar work and soaring vocals; Home is perhaps the strongest track here, its a simple and direct love song with beautiful lyrics that celebrate the strength of love and partnership in adversity.

American Jukebox Fables is lyrically and musically superb, its instantly accessible and an album that really stands out from the crowd.

LINK: Fish Records Best of 2005


updated: 10 years ago