Ellis Paul: Paying out musical dividends
Black & white photograph of musician Ellis Paul kindly provided by macpolski; color photograph graciously shared by Louise/4tay
When singer/songwriter Ellis Paul took the stage last Saturday night, he was not alone. He brought with him that sense of calm and confidence that comes from years of experience. His ninety minute set reflected that quiet confidence, offering a rare and pleasing blend of melody and personality that left the audience lingering well after the music had ended, hoping for more.
His original brand of music has a lyrical quality with a sound grounded in folk, but spiced with a country/pop flavor. It’s a combination that has won regional and national accolades. Most recently, Paul has been asked to collaborate on the film “Hall Pass” (starring Owen Wilson and slated for a February 2011 release). Up to eight songs from the singer’s 2010 album “The Day after Everything Changed” will be featured in the soundtrack.
Paul had a humorous take on this collaboration for the Saturday night audience. “Some of you know that I’ve had a couple of songs in movies over the years, most of them in Farrelly brothers films. They just called me and asked me to send the new record to them. Then they called me back, and they said, can you send another copy of the record, but this time….could you take the vocals out? And I said sure, can you send me your next movie without the actors?”
Fortunately, the vocals were left in for the November 20 show. Paul has a clear and expressive voice with a faint breathy quality that lends character; his range was showcased nicely against a spare instrumental background consisting of his own guitar, harmonica, or piano play. Limited back-up vocals were provided by a willing audience.
Both setlist and requested songs were played, ranging from the socially relevant “Hurricane Angel” to the romantic “Rose Tattoo” and the whimsical “Dragonfly”. Most remarkable were the lyrics to these songs, capable of evoking vivid imagery, and in some cases an emotional response.
Listen to “Hurricane Angel”, the personal and poignant story of post Katrina Louisiana. “Mr. President, you can’t afford to lie, cause I can’t afford to pay. Hurricane Angel I’m lifting my eyes over Baton Rouge. Lift up your wings, let me hear your voice singing, can your turn these black skies to blue again?”
“The Lights of Vegas” is one of several songs on the new album co-written by Kristian Bush, one-half of the smash country duo Sugarland and a longtime Ellis Paul friend. This is the story of a man who leaves all behind to invest his last dollar in the slots, looking for that one last chance before the sun rises. The following performance clip includes a brief rehearsal segment as the audience learns the song’s simple chorus. Na na na na….
Throughout the evening, brief interludes between songs were filled by stories of the musician’s life on the road, and these were punctuated by the same dry and intelligent wit that characterizes Paul’s songwriting.
It was a ninety minute set that felt like twenty, skillfully paced and delivered. As a first introduction to singer/songwriter Ellis Paul, this New Jersey evening proved a complete success. The show was well worth the investment of time and travel, and one that paid musical dividends.
For more on singer/songwriter Ellis Paul: http://www.ellispaul.com/
For a look at creative marketing & a free download of the title track from “The Day after Everything Changed”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uepurGa9ZBA&playnext=1&list=PLB37C21823395DB06&index=33