Co-Op Pop Records
by Roberta B. Schwartz
It's always a pleasure to review something new from Ellis Paul. He is Boston's favorite singer/songwriter, with a record twelve Boston Music Awards to his name. Paul's distinctive tenor, brilliant storytelling, and poetic lyrics have brought him a much-deserved national following. Even Hollywood has come calling in the shape of the Farrelly Brothers, who have used Paul's tunes in several of their films. This degree of success has allowed Paul the freedom to record an album full of previously unreleased songs, and previously recorded tunes with a different mix or point of view. The results are contained in his newest release Sweet Mistakes, recorded on the independent label, Co-Op Pop Records.
The CD opens with Kristian's Song, a tale about a Boston street singer. It's full of crisp images of the subway riders who listen on underground platforms, and the sights of Boston at night. With just Ellis Paul accompanying himself on guitar, it's the perfect accompaniment to his sweet vocals.
The title track, Sweet Mistakes, rocks with a full band accompaniment. Paul seems to be urging listeners to move beyond life's missteps in order to grab the brass ring:
No one writes about youth and more innocent times better than Ellis Paul. Each new recording seems to deliver a new tune in this genre. Seventeen Septembers is his best since Don't Breathe on the Stories album.
Although Paul is known as a writer of sensitively-written tales of love lost and won, and life's successes and failures, he is not often touted as the gifted pop/rock performer that he is. Both the newly-penned "Independence Day," and the re-released and remixed classic 3000 Miles, demonstrate his ability to write a song that both moves rhythmically and moves us as listeners. In Independence Day, Paul's declaration, Here I am," backed by Kristian Bush on electric guitar and Kevin Leahy on drums, literally gets us up on our feet dancing. 3000 Miles tells the story of a young man on a cross-country bus trip, describing in perfect detail the essence of each of the characters he meets along the way. This is Ellis Paul at his best.
Some of Paul's musical experiments here include an R&B version of his Live album tune Martyr's Lounge, about the bar in heaven, and the country rock version of Rollaway Bed. The Twentieth Century Is Over is driven by Paul's sung/spoken array of the last century's accomplishments over a contemporary dance mix. Fans will appreciate a different look at these songs.
Sweet Mistakes takes us on a musical journey through both Ellis Paul's most recent work as well as a second look at some of his older tunes. For both dedicated fans and new listeners alike, Sweet Mistakes is a joy to listen to. The music is fun and spontaneous, covering a wide variety of genres. The rock-inspired tunes are particularly good, and I think, work best. I look forward to joining Ellis Paul on his continuing musical journey. Sweet Mistakes only adds to Paul's stature as one of the very best acoustic artists on the contemporary scene.