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Ellis Paul


Review of "Side of the Road"

^ Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert, familiar names on the folk and singer-songwriter circuits, have been good friends since the late 1980s when both began their careers in the clubs of Boston. After years of performing at the same venues and backing each other, this is their first recording project as a duo. Paul and Gilbert wrote one tune together, Gilbert wrote one himself and the other eight are covers. Paul and Gilbert take turns on lead vocal, and each backs the other on all tracks.  

Paul goes first on "The Only Way," a well-produced Mark Erelli composition featuring some nice fiddle work by Jake Armerding; all familiar names to the Falcon Ridge faithful. Gilbert sings the title track, a nice slow version of the Lucinda Williams classic with some vocal harmonizing by Paul; Tom West adds a great sounding Hammond organ solo. Paul and Gilbert together wrote "Citizen of the World," which has Paul singing lead with Gilbert nicely harmonizing.  

Paul takes lead on a nice mellow version of Neil Young's "Comes a Time." Gilbert follows with Susan Werner's "May I Suggest," again with a relaxed singer-songwriter production style. The energy level cranks up a few notches for Paul's take on fellow folkie Jeff Black's composition "What Do I Want What Do I Need." Gilbert covers "Gentle Arms of Eden," penned by the late Dave Carter, with the spare production magnifying the poignancy of the tune, with voice and a nice deep bass prominent.  

Paul sings "This Morning I Am Born Again" with no other backing than Gilbert on harmony vocal and Duke Levine on guitar; this track features words by Woody Guthrie set to music by Slaid Cleaves. Gilbert handles his own composition, "Alone Down Here," then closes the record with Van Morrison's "Comfort You" with excellent production featuring some more nice Hammond organ.  

Ellis Paul has an eminently commercial sounding voice and, considering his equally formidable songwriting skill, it's surprising that he hasn't outgrown the small clubs he seems to favor. Whatever limitations Gilbert may have as a songwriter are more than outweighed by his incredibly engaging personality and his always on the mark sense of humor. If he hadn't become a musician he might well have a career in stand-up comedy. Together they have produced a very ear-friendly record that is a total pleasure from start to finish.

~ by William Kates ^