Ellis Paul finally out-sings Barney
November 10, 2007
The Morning Call
Part of the folk singer's job description is to introduce the next generation to music, says Ellis Paul.
Although Paul's often described as a singer-songwriter with pop, rock and country influences, he says he's always considered himself to be a folk singer.
With his 14th CD, ''The Dragonfly Races'' and his first venture into the world of children's music, Paul says he is finally filling his ''neglected obligation.''
''It's just another aspect of folk music,'' he says. ''Even Woody Guthrie did kids' songs.''
Sunday, The Boston-based musician will give a preview of tunes from the new disc at a special family concert at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem. He also plays two concerts of adult music at Godfrey Daniels tonight.
Racing dragonflies and chameleons marching on Washington are some of the fanciful creatures inhabiting the whimsical new CD that is being released Thursday and was inspired by Paul's own children, Ella, 3, and Sofi, born in January. Paul started working on songs for the album while staying home for six weeks with baby Sofi.
''My kids weren't listening to my music,'' Paul says. ''I was being beaten by Barney, so I thought I'd do something special for them.''
To his surprise, Paul found he enjoyed creating songs about riding a swing and having a bed on wheels for a new audience.
''They're little story songs, like my adult music, but more catchy and to the point,'' he says. ''It spurred my imagination to explore the fantasy world of a 5-year-old. I didn't think I would have as much fun doing this as I did.''
In true folkie fashion, Paul also infuses the CD with messages about peace and trying to make changes in the world. ''I wanted to inform them in some way about the world,'' he says. ''Folk music has always included social commentary.''
The family shows, which are a new experience for Paul, have been a ''grand experiment'' and a big change from the focused adult audiences who listen intently to a five-minute song.
''Children listen with their bodies instead of just their ears,'' Paul says. ''This is a brave new world and it's a challenge to get kids involved in the physical side of songs. It's like I'm a ringmaster at a three-ring circus, and I'm not quite a master of it yet.''
He cites former Del Fuegos frontman turned family musical Dan Zanes and neo-tribal folk percussionist Billy Jonas as the ''vein I'm shooting for.''
One of the delights of ''Dragonfly Races'' is the CD is packaged with a 24-page booklet featuring ink and watercolor drawings by Paul illustrating the full lyrics of each song.
''I've been drawing since I was a kid,'' Paul says. ''I've always wanted art to be a part of my creative life. This combines the two.''
He also plans to follow up this effort with actual children's books of many of the songs.
With the engaging title song about a dragonfly who tried his best and won, ''Wabi-Sabi,'' a hooky ode to a Japanese concept of beauty and fragility; ''The Little Red Rose,'' a metaphorical plea for peace, and ''The Million Chameleon March,'' which Paul terms a ''kid's first protest song,'' Paul hopes to entertain parents as well as toddlers.
''I'm as proud of this record as anything I've ever done,'' Paul says. ''For me, all my songs have got to be artistically fulfilling.''
As for target audience Ella and Sofi, Paul's CD is a hit and has edged aside the purple dinosaur.
''They love it,'' Paul says. ''I put it on for Ella and she ran in circles. It's such a joy to watch kids interact with music.''
by Kathy Lauer-Williams, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)