Music

Ellis Paul: The Day After Everything Changed

The album sounds like it’s being geared more toward Nashville than Boston or even Austin.


The Day After Everything Changed

Name: Ellis Paul
Label: Black Wolf
US Release Date: 2010-01-12
UK Release Date: 2010-01-12
Artist Website

The backing story to Ellis Paul’s The Day After Everything Changed is enough to make even the most cynical of musical consumers feel a bit of warmth in their hearts. The acclaimed Boston-based folk singer-songwriter's own fanbase contributed vigorously at venues and concerts and gave Paul’s bank account the numbers needed to produce this latest work. In that sense alone, the real spirit of the folk scene comes alive. At a time when the idea of “folk” has been diluted to the stereotypical “open mic night” at some vegan café with a myriad of hipsters just wanting to be seen, it’s nice to see an artists truly rely on a grassroots campaign in order to deliver. The display of symbiotic relationship between artist and fan shown by Paul is one of the best executed in recent memory.

Interesting enough, Paul’s latest album sounds like it’s being geared more toward Nashville than Boston or even Austin. The fact that the album carries five songs cowritten with former folkie-turned-Nashville-superstar Kristian Bush only cements the fact that The Day After Everything Changed is essentially Paul’s very own This Is It. Like Jack Ingram’s “sellout” album, Paul’s rough, even rowdy edges have been carved away and dulled down for a more straightforward sound and spit-polish production that only sometimes works with Paul’s passion-trumps-pitch vocals. The fact that he would clean himself up so immensely for an album funded by fans who happened to like his organic sound just fine is completely confusing at best and ultimately disheartening at worst.

Even when Kristian Bush’s name isn’t attached to a song, Paul still sounds like he’s trying to sing a Sugarland song. The opening “Annalee” features lyrics about moving to college and hearing a mandolin jukebox behind production so loud that it forces Paul’s already limited vocals to attempt to rise above the music. If Paul possessed the pipes of Jennifer Nettles, this wouldn’t be a problem. Nettles has carved out a niche in modern country by singing imagery about young American life (particularly the college life) behind a hybrid of '80s rock and slight country flourishes, but Ellis Paul’s production choices and vocals have always been intimate, never lush, and raw, never refined. The attempts he makes on Day After rarely work in his favor. On one of the pieces Bush cowrites, “River Road”, Paul painfully attempts to sing slightly above his range and completely strains it during the would-be hook, “Would you like to know how it feels?”. His effort at a falsetto turn on the title track is an utter embarrassment.

The quality of Paul’s lyrics has also decreased significantly. Once one of Boston’s most vernacular-based lyricists, Paul made a name for himself by writing about minor details that revealed major plot turns in his narratives (see “Paris In A Day” or “Words”). So to hear the songwriter relying on clichéd and trite imagery -- like a scarecrow highway on “River Road”, the lights of Vegas on a song of the same title, a morning sun on the terrible “Heaven’s Wherever You Are” (doesn’t the song title just give it away?), or the equally banal “Sometime, Someplace”, which features a pointless laundry-list of mixed metaphors that belong in a freshman composition class -- only leaves the listener scratching their head.

Only on one song does the real talent of Paul’s pen shine through. The should-be bland “Once Upon A Summertime” reveals that Paul hasn’t completely lost his sense of self. The song contains this sincere, humorous verse:

At the drive-in we’d meet

In the Buick’s back seat

And find the Cracker Jack prize in the dark

Back home, your father would come out

He’d say, "What was the movie about?"

I said, "A ghost"

You said, "A great white shark”

This kind of thoughtful colloquialism has earned Paul his fan base over the years, and it's almost completely absent from his latest outing.

The real shame in the whole ordeal is that after all the dedication to the singer-songwriter, the best he could come up with to offer his fans is The Day After Everything Changed. Ellis Paul better hope this album is able to help him break into a wider audience, because after one listen to his egregious cover of “Walking After Midnight”, he may not have many original fans left.

3

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image