Skip to main content

Ellis Paul

Review-Ellis Paul's Graceful, Eloquent New Record

Review in Cape Cod Times

Cape Cod Times

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

by Ken Capobianco

Ellis Paul has been both a staple of the Boston and national folk music scene for well over a decade and there's a reason for his longevity. The singer/songwriter writes smart, acute songs finely attuned to the nuances of the American experience.

He releases his latest record, "The Day After Everything Changed" today and it's certainly one of the highlights of his career.

The disc was financed by fan's donations (which tells you about the sad state and cluelessness of labels today) and the production by Thad Beaty and Jason Collum is crisply effective as they realize that it's Paul's superb songs and fully engaged singing are the focus. The sound here, though, is punched up and certainly veers towards pop as on "The Lights of Vegas" and "River Road," which nods to Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road."

There's a keen musicality to the songs thanks to a tight ensemble featuring both Beaty and percussionist Cullum. They are in the service of Paul's wonderfully detailed songs (two of which were co-written by Sugarland's Kristian Bush) about aging, love, memory, wanderlust and settling down.
On "Rose Tattoo," a song about devotion in the face of life's obstacles, Paul delivers these verses:

"The economy's crashing and this poor boy's laughing/ 'cause there's nothing to lose/we don't live in no  mansion/there's no bling to put on/only Walmart fashion will do/Inside the house the baby's screaming/and the pasta's steaming and/I look through the windows/it feels like I'm dreaming/you pull the door open and say/"Daddy when you comin' home?"

That is narrative songwriting at its finest filled with internal rhymes, crucial details and humanity. There aren't many other songwriters not born in Austin that can pull that off today.

Paul also delivers one of the strongest songs about the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans with "Hurricane Angel." While so many others have used sloganeering and clichés that add up to nothing (or ignored the situation completely), Paul offers a finely etched portrait of a man who sees his life washed away and must face the frustrations of having nowhere to turn in the face of shameful government and corporate neglect.

While this is obviously specific to Katrina, it also resonates broader and the narrator could be anyone caught up in virtually hopeless predicaments thanks to situations beyond their control (no doubt those in Flint, Michigan or other blighted areas can relate). The past decade has taken its toll. This is a story of a post Katrina world, literally and figuratively. Just ask the people who have been uninsured and out of work and find themselves drowning in bills and desperately looking for a breath of fresh air.

This is such a tuneful, beautifully drawn set of songs played and sung with authority that it reminds you how much we need storytellers back in pop music—storytellers with empathy, fine eyes and an understanding that even though we live in a soulless, indifferent world our music doesn't have to reflect our culture.

read the full article: Review-Ellis Paul's Graceful, Eloquent New Record