March 27, 2010
This one came out back in January, but we just came across it again, and it's really one not to miss. Ellis Paul, while not a huge national superstar, is an acclaimed singer-songwriter out of Boston, known for his closely observed folk-leaning style of writing. He's been around for years, honing his craft, and his latest, The Day After Everything Changed, shows just how good he's gotten. This is one helluva record. It's got a big American-rock sound on most songs, with absolutely huge drums and awesome sweeping production (unusual for a folkie). But while the music is altogether satisfying, it's Paul's evocative, at times uncomfortably intimate stories that make it all so gripping. Whether detailing a sudden infatuation ("Annalee"), the desperation following hurricane Katrina ("Hurricane Angel") or a we'll-get-by-on-love bad economy tale ("Rose Tattoo"), his turns of phrase and observations are so well put together, it's really striking. And the sheer elegance of a lyric like "If I lost you, I'd be lost too" (so simple, so right) just makes you shake your head in wonder. Some have groused that he's fallen into a classic-rock clich rut, in particular borrowing too liberally from Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" (the whole "trade your wings in on some wheels" part of "River Road"), but that feels more like deliberate homage to us (note the similar titles) rather than a case of not having an original idea. Ellis Paul's got plenty of those.