Ellis Paul - The Day After Everything Changed
Record Label: Black Wolf Records
Release Date: Jan. 12, 2010
In the arena of contemporary folk music few names are as legendary as Ellis Paul. Considered by many to be one of the leading pioneers of the Boston folk music scene in the late 80s and early 90s, Paul has varnished a highly successful and critically lauded career that spans four decades. His twelfth studio album, The Day After Everything Changed, was funded solely by his fans and represents the second studio album released since Paul relocated to Virginia in 2007.
Though it's a bit long-winded (15 songs) The Day After Everything Changed is a buoyant, incisive collection of bristling folk-pop and some of Paul's finest work to date. Album opener, "Annalee," is a (insert BoDeans metaphor) rocker that starts everything off on the right foot. If album openers are truly an opening statement, then few are as strong as this. The sweetly affecting acoustic valentine "Rose Tattoo," follows and hearkens back to the Mainerl's earlier days. Gently plucked, the song details the inner travails of domesticity, from steaming pasta to diaper changes. With that nugget under his belt, he barrels through three near-perfect rock anthems. The first, "River Road," chronicles the joys of winding down a narrow highways with nothing but the wind to fret over, whereas the propulsive title track details the inherent passion in a steamy late night affair.
But of all the album's earlier offerings, "The Lights of Vegas," an arena-ready paean to Sin City is arguably the most indelible. With a palette of "oooh"s and driving guitars, it has a centripetal force that is undeniable. Sure those that find Top 40 bands like OneRepublic underwhelming aren't going to find favor with this, but then again, that's not exactly Paul's niche. He is in the end, a storyteller, and five songs in, he has done little to dispute the claim that he is indeed among one of the nation's best.
Stripping away the guitars, Paul takes to the piano on the post-Katrina ballad, "Hurricane Angel," a moving and incredibly honest portrait of a Louisiana refugee. Unfortunately, when the song ends, so too does the album's cohesive continuity. What follows is a triumvirate of three-minute pop songs, of which only one ("Sometime, Someplace") is memorable. This if course posits the question, why exactly did Paul inserted these gnomic bits of filler into the equation?
Thankfully he regains his award-winning form on the vernal "Once Upon a Summertime," a vignette about a breathtaking romance; and "Waking Up To Me," a yearning tale about life on the road. Paul has always been known for his sentimentality, but these two offerings elucidate the point to a tee. He tries his hand at the 1960s classic "Walking After Midnight," utilizing a more sprite arrangement than the original. Just before the song concludes it segues into the Sam Bush ditty "Change." If it sounds awkward and confusing, that's because it is. Let it be known, it's an interesting diversion for an album that already took a 9-minute dip in the middle half.
In the end, this is Paul's career and he's free to do whatever he pleases. After all, he probably wouldn't come this far, if he hadn't. Reassuringly, the disc ends solidly with three of Paul's finest songs to date. The Civil War-inspired "The Cotton's Burning," is arguably one of the more memorable of his career, while the rousing "Paper Dolls, " calls on fellow singer-songwriter Kristian Bush (one-half of the country superstars Sugarland) for backing vocals. The disc rests with the timeless, acoustic rumination "Nothing Left to Take," a burning portrait of a man fleeing a wrecked romance.
Four decades into a career that happened by accident, Paul is supremely comfortable and confident with the direction his career has taken. Having amassed 13 Boston Music Awards and having been placed in TV shows such as "Ed," "MTV's Real World," and the soundtracks of various Farrelly Brothers films, he has most assuredly found commercial success. That his mailing list currently houses more than 20,000 vehement fans is a testament to his unwavering conviction and his highly authentic songwriting abilities. With The Day After Everything Changed he furthers those assertions. Peter Farrelly was right when he said it. Ellis Paul is indeed a national treasure.