FAME Review of Ellis Paul Essentials
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by Roberta B. Schwartz.
Ellis Paul is one of the best singer/songwriters of his generation. And for many of us he is the face of contemporary folk musicfew are as smart, as literate and as poetic as Paul. He has spun his story songs for nearly twenty years now, and has eleven studio recordings (with an additional two early recordings on cassettenow available on CD) to his credit. I cannot think of another artist on the acoustic music scene who is better-loved by fans, or more respected by his contemporaries.
I suspect that turning forty, having a child and putting down roots all had something to do with Paul's taking a look back at his body of work in the newly released Essentials. While Paul's 2000 Live recording captured Ellis Paul the live performer, 2006's Essentials captures Ellis Paul the artist.
Essentials presents the richness, the range and the beauty of Paul's work in a double CD package. Ralph Jaccodine, Paul's longtime manager and friend, is named as executive producer. He successfully pulls together the many strands of Paul's career here. There are thirty-two songs in allmany are the originals available on earlier recordings. But this is not simply a "best of" recording. The bonuses include two new songs and eight new versions of his classic tunes, some recorded live.
Putting all of the assessments aside for a moment, what impresses most is the stunning beauty of Ellis Paul's art. Just listening to the music and taking it all in - you become swept away by the songs and immersed in the stories they tell.
Classic Ellis Paul songs, like Conversation with a Ghost, which put him on the map, are all here. Hearing the original version of the song with Patty Griffin's achingly beautiful harmony, Johnny Cunningham's violin, and the haunting melody, brings back the excitement of hearing Paul perform it for the first time.
There are also new songs, like If She's the One, co-written with Flynn, who produced the cut as well. It lets us know how you will feel when you come across the love you have been looking for. Flynn mixes in an electric guitar and a percussive beat to rock the tune to the place it needs to go. The other new song is Welcome Home to Maine, Paul's beautiful homage to his home state. No matter where you are from, you will find your own sense of home here.
New renditions of Ellis Paul favorites like Maria's Beautiful Mess, and the gorgeous Words appear here in lovely new arrangements provided by John Jennings.
The recording closes with a live version of Woody Guthrie's God's Promise from the stage of the Boothbay Opera House in Maine.
Essentials contains much of Ellis Paul's best work to date. But unlike most retrospective collections, this one clearly shines a light on the future. And what we know is thisthat the brilliance of his body of work tells us that there are great things to come. This is a must have collection for music fans everywhere.