After nineteen albums, a long relationship with Rounder Records, an established reputation as a songwriter and thirty years in the music business, Ellis Paul left it all behind him and pared it back to start again on his own terms. Starting as a crowd funding project THE STORYTELLERS SUITCASE, an album title to suggest the light travelling acoustic troubadour carrying everything they need and needing only what they’ve got, is the first shoots of this new beginning. This is Ellis Paul on his own label, on his own terms, writing for himself, following the muse and playing for fans.
Ellis Paul has a soulful considered enunciation, like an acoustic Marc Cohen. “I Ain’t No Jesus” is a beautiful self deprecating love song with sweet country fiddle and Paul’s chiming picked guitar. “You’ll Never Be That Young Again” is another feel good song about a meeting with a hitchhiker and doing what you want. The guitar and vocal are peppy and bubbling, lifting your spirits. “Kiss Me ‘Cause I’m Gone” is a radio friendly wanderers song. Riding on snappy percussion and a funky Hammond organ Ellis gets warm and soulful. “Scarecrow In A Corn Maze” is a piano ballad with a quirky lyric full of small town real life observations over a warm arrangement, with some sharp commentary that glows like Dave Matthews or Bruce Hornsby. “Slingshot”, “Storytellers Suitcase” and “Heaven” are more intimate sets of observations, accompanied by flying fingers and some deft guitar, Ellis delivers fine soulful vocals, looking at life with some wry observations. “How You Say Goodbye” is further evidence of Ellis’ funky and spry acoustic guitar and ability to deliver uplifting soulful music, full of warm emotion. “The Innocence And The Afterlife” is a highly personal piece of Americana, real life observations reveal real emotion and intimacy. There are no ‘baby’s or worn out generic lines here, his warm sincere delivery breathes life into the whole album, with tracks like “Five Alarm Fire On The Forth Of July” brimming over with wry observations of small town rural America. Ellis Paul always sounds like he has a smile on his face, but there is a sincerity and poetic depth beneath the self deprecating humour of the album cover sketch. “The Battle Of Charlottesville” is a bubbling acoustic song, looking at extremism and hate, don’t be deceived by the warm soulful vocals and lively percussion this man is not afraid to make a stand against past and present skeletons in the closet. “Mammoth” is a stunningly intense song, marrying the generic engineering of Roy Harper’s “Descendants Of Smith” to a love song. There is a wonderfully layered sound and another compelling vocal by Ellis as he delivers big ideas and a poignantly melancholic personal lyric. Delivered like a great depression or dustbowl ballad “Election Day”, written by Michael K Brown, has a folk blues feel and a message to deliver. Over some fine guitar and double bass Ellis lobs some well aimed barbs.
This is a sensitive, sophisticated singer songwriter album full of warm playing and warm delivery. Beneath the warmth there are some deftly written and well observed and personal lyrics as well as a timely cover that will appeal to lovers of soulful old school Americana.
Marc Higgins 29/10/19
This review also appeared in Fatea Magazine