Ellis Paul

Review- The Hartford Courant

Thomas Kintner

The Dragonfly Races
Black Wolf

His accessible, pop-infused music and sturdy storytelling have earned longtime Boston folk stalwart Ellis Paul a solid following nationwide. Now living in Virginia, Ellis, 43, adheres to past form even as he shifts gears with "The Dragonfly Races," a broadly appealing family record. It is full of tuneful enticements for toddlers and adults alike and maintains a level of literacy that gives the songs depth.

Paul's lean, breathy singing suits playful arrangements, which streamline his sound in some places and add robust emphasis in others for tunes such as "Because It's There" that marry detail-filled verses to jaunty, easily retained choruses. Japanese concepts of the inevitability of decline are pretty heavy ideas to lay upon kids in "Wabi-Sabi," but its deeper meanings are couched in a friendly, acoustic guitar-trimmed sway that helps minimize the impact of existential angst on the younger set.

Social change ideas populate many numbers, from the measured musing on racial tolerance "Million Chameleon March" to the assessment of positive transformation as a debt owed to younger generations on "9 Months to Fix the World." Even at its most pointed, the set downplays preaching in favor of fun like that on the charming, fanciful "The Bed Song," and the impressions that last are of exuberance and ideas that spark curiosity as surely as they reward it.

Essential download: "I Lost a Day to the Rain"

— Thomas Kintner

updated: 10 years ago