February 19, 2013

Ellis Paul: The Day After Everything Changed

Ellis Paul is coming through - visiting nearby Northampton for an evening at the Iron Horse, Saturday, March 2nd.

I've been listening to Ellis' 2010 release The Day After Everything Changed, with many tracks co-written by Ellis and Kristian Bush (1/2 of the duo Sugarland) - it's been an interesting listen.

The album has a good kick to it - with the opening tracks punched up with the combination of power, instrumentation, and production that would feel right at home on the local country station. Annalee, a bit sparse in the Youtube clip above, rocks out on the album with a full band. And yet, woven in through the power country are plenty of quieter, more accessible tracks. Dragonfly, Waking Up To Me and Once Upon a Summertime feel much more personal, sweet and a little painful. The piano in Once Upon a Summertime was particularly winsome - hearkening back to classic Jackson Brown; I suspect the long past summer Ellis is singing of was a summer from my own high school days.  

I smiled through River Road, as snippets of the imagery and language of Springsteen's Thunder Road sneaks into a song (...would you like to know how it feels? To trade your wings in on some wheels...) that is less desperate, and more joyful than Springsteen's ode to a summer's drive into a risky unknown, and more at peace with the ride. Bruce's screen door slams; Ellis's screen door is a window into his love's eyes. It's not "do or die" for Ellis (and co-writer Kristian), it's a happy ride on a summer's evening, with a rolling banjo laying low in the mix.

Other songs charmed. An uptempo, nearly rockabilly version of Walking After Midnight morphs into Sam Baker's Change without missing a beat. The Cotton's Burning brought to mind The Band's Night They Drove Old Dixie Down with a bit more funk. Paper Dolls, banged out on a piano that feels like it's been sitting in the back of a bar for years, soaking in the loneliness and ever so slightly out of tune - as Kristian Bush folds in a countermelody and harmonies. And the closing track, Nothing Left to Take, brings it all back home - just a singer with his guitar - sitting down at a microphone at any coffeehouse, open mike, or rural bar on folk night. Beautiful, simple, and powerful.

It might be a chilly late winter in terms of temperature here in New England, but I suspect that the Ellis Paul Band is going to bring a balmy summer warmth to the Iron Horse next weekend. Definitely worth a ride up I-91.  

Ellis has been keeping the folk tradition alive for a lot of years; I've caught him at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival many times over the past many years. If you know the year Ellis Paul stepped up to the Falcon Ridge showcase stage (and walked away with one of the coveted Most Wanted spots for the following year), drop me an email. First one with the right answer wins a copy of The Day After Everything Changed...

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