Hartford Courant Review of "American Jukebox Fables"
Thursday, May 5, 2005
Ellis Paul always has trafficked in accessible, pop-leaning forms even as he has climbed the folk music ranks, but it is surprising nonetheless to hear how thoroughly he embraces full-bodied production work on "American Jukebox Fables." The result is an atypically intelligent pop album by an artist who spins vivid yarns even as he delves into thicker manufactured atmosphere than wordsmiths of similar skill typically choose to employ.
Paul's penchant for lyrical obscurity melds with his singular vocal phrasings to produce fascinating moments of storytelling, such as his tribute to a fallen football star in "Kiss the Sun (A Song for Pat Tillman)." His lucid musings are nearly lost amid the mechanical hooks of "Marc Chagall," but the rich, tasteful surroundings of the piano-laced "Goodbye Hollywood" lend the tune valuable ambiance while leaving Paul plenty of space in which to ply his craft.
Unadorned folk rears its head when Paul strips down for the breathy treat "Clarity," but for the most part he luxuriates in the sort of melodic swirl that plumps up the freewheeling "Blacktop Train." His employment of sweeter-than-folk backdrops resonates far more as expanded musical _expression than commercial enterprise. Merged with the sort of perspective that colors "Take All the Sky You Need," the approach proves distinctive and rewarding. -- Thomas Kintner