February 23, 2010
Fans contributed $100,000 toward this album. So, it's got to sound grand and match their generosity. It does both, clocking in at an hour, fifteen finely crafted tales of characters facing their day after everything changed. Paul performs almost flawlessly, a musical biathlete with cross-country hooks (that sometimes overreach) and a precision arsenal of telling details. "Annalee" opens big. Everything changes dockside for a youth when a lovely girl dives in "in nothing but skin." The arrangement builds from quiet vocals to a wall-of-sound, hum-able chorus worth repeating. Other songs follow that pattern, like "The Lights of Vegas," one of five co-written with Sugarland's Kristian Bush. A couple gambles on the shining city of lights for recovering "the love... left behind." The Beatlesque "Heaven's Wherever You Are" uses riverboat piano, whistling, and four insistent beats per measure to beat the blues for someone needing "something to live for out on this long winding road." "Rose Tattoo" is vintage acoustic Paul. The vocals hush in front of Paul's overdubbed hammer-ons and two-fingered slides. A father drives home with bad news and "one good wiper." He would be lost without his wife who vows they'll "fight for the best case scenario" then puts "Van Morrison on the stereo." Pure poetry about making it through! A Katrina victim waits for his "Hurricane Angel" while "a man in India" wonders "where the money went" and another "in Delaware" says he "can't have the pills" he needs because he can't pay. Pure poetry about not making it through! Paul's six string flits around like the "Dragonfly" (co-written with Sam Baker) that brings the image of a woman's "red dress... hanging from the moon." Paul re-envisions "Walking after Midnight" with a new melody and new resilience, then conflates it with Baker's affecting "Change." Paul's shooting for the moon messing with Patsy but, as with the entire CD, the payoff is large. Ellis Paul scored a 90% discount with his first studio album in five years. It sounds like a million bucks.
by David Kleiner, Minor 7th