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Ellis Paul


Ellis Paul – Live
Produced by Ellis Paul
Mixed by Thomas Eaton at Thomas Eaton recording, Newburyport, MA
Mastered by Jonathan Wyner at M Works, Cambridge, MA

Taking songs from solo stints and collaborations with talented friends like Don Conoscenti, Christopher Williams, Patty Griffin and Push Star Chris Trapper, perennial Boston Music Award recipient Ellis Paul has released an ambitious and long-awaited live album which includes most of his intimately and intensely crowd-pleasing favorites and an album’s worth of new tunes. From the gentle urgency of “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down” and “Seize the Day” to the pointed romance of “Conversations with a Ghost” (either solo or with Griffin’s “wool blanket” vocal heft), the crescendoing street corner soul of the reluctantly romantic “Maria’s Beautiful Mess,” the aptly-titled vocal focus of “Weightless” and spoken word pieces like “Love’s Too Familiar a Word” and “Tornado Girl,” Paul exercises his well-worked imagery and irony muscles among weighted offerings like the post break-up piece-picker-upper “When We Begin” and the extendedly-introduced “Autobiography of a Pistol.” Weaving his distinctive diction and exorbitant expression among the multiple moods of the nearly two-hour two-disc set, Paul gives credit to mentors old and new (including a few slyly admiring nods to Kurt Cobain) and gives his fans more than all the music they could want, along with stories of unwanted fame and confident self-comparisons. If you have had trouble procuring tickets to a Paul show, or if you want a more comprehensive token to remember him by until the next one, this is the set to get.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 2000 M. S. Robinson, ARR



Ellis Paul - Carnival of Voices
12-track CD
Released on Philo Records
Produced by Jerry Marotta
Recorded at Apple Head Studios, Woodstock, NY

Though Ellis Paul is a wonder to behold on his own, his songs take on new airs when set to a full band. I’m not saying they are better or worse -- I have always loved the intimacy of Paul’s solo shows -- but there is definitely a fresh and beautiful pattern which the additional voices bring to the fare.
Slapping to life on a hard snare head, the album is introduced by the lyrically cynical bewailing of city life “Midnight Strikes Too Soon.” City lights illuminate the first few rides in the carnival, from the mellow “Midnight” to the tuneful travel log “Paris in a Day” (featuring backing by Patty Griffin and the clever musical question “What would Marcel Marceau say?”) to the MBTA-inspired whispered reminiscence “Trolley Car.” The train theme is touched-on again in “Deliver Me,” which mixes slightly annoying syllabic swallowing and mispronunciation (e.g., Paul’s pronouncing “me” as “may” even while his background singers stress the “ee”) with fluid guitar work and intelligent and insightful Biblical references. Inner-city blues return in “The Ball is Coming Down,” a tragically throbbing view of New Year’s Eve and the sad people who struggle through it each year. On the more hopeful side is the gorgeous ballad of faith called “Weightless” which mixes Paul’s lovely picking and voice with that of the equally lovely Jennifer Kimball.
As Paul reminds us in the unlisted group reprise of the opening chorus, “Midnight Strikes Too Soon.” In other words, life is fleeting and unpredictable, so live it fully, or else be forced to face the regret beautifully depicted in songs such as “Never Lived at All,” “All My Heroes Were Junkies” and the hidden final track “Ghosts.” A good start would be buying his album and taking Paul’s lyrical messages to heart.

- Matthew S. Robinson
© 1997 M. S. Robinson, ARR


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