Ellis Paul has been elevating folk music to new levels since his first album in 1989. Therefore, it is no surprise that Paul's first DVD release elevates the genre of folk DVD to the next level. 3000 Miles is named after Paul's popular song of the same name from his 1995 album Stories. The DVD is part live concert, part road movie, part guitar lesson, and part interview. As such, fans of Paul get 177 minutes of a variety of entertainment and information about him.
The concert was recorded during Paul's annual hometown show at the Somerville Theatre in Massachusetts in 2001. Paul arrives on-stage with his guitar bearing the moniker "Anti Terror Machine." After playing several songs by himself, he welcomes Susan Werner to the stage, herself no stranger to DVDs (see the FAME review of All Mapped Out). When their two guitars crank out 3000 Miles, it's enough to send chills up one's spine. The two continue on a stirring version of "Conversation with a Ghost" and Woody Guthrie's Way Over Yonder in a Minor Key (recorded by Billy Bragg, Natalie Merchant and Wilco on Mermaid Avenue). After Werner leaves the stage, Paul previews for the audience The Speed of Trees, what would eventually become the title track for his forthcoming 2002 album. A bonus backstage performance of a traditional blues song acts as the outro over the credits. The DVD also has an audio track where Paul and his manager Ralph Jaccodine comment on the performance, songs, and stage props.
The quality of the concert sound is quite high and a pleasure to listen to. Unfortunately, the camera work is a bit amateurish. Camera shake occurs often enough to be annoying. Sometimes the camera lingers on a shot---other times the scenes switch too rapidly from one to another---with no apparent reason. The pans are frequently off center. Some improvement occurs as the concert progresses, however, so it's not distracting the entire time. Nevertheless, these minor complaints do not take away from what is otherwise a very enjoyable concert experience.
The 39-minute road movie was shot by Boston filmmaker Matt Linde, who accompanied Paul on his 1995 coast-to-coast tour, sleeping on friends' couches and futons along the way. Paul and Linde visit venues in Massachusetts, Vermont, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and California, documenting moments from stage at each place, but never featuring an entire song. The majority of the movie entails conversations between Paul and his friends, parts of which can drag. The movie ends with scenes of a stunned Paul in front of his wrecked Honda Civic, telling the story of his roll-over in Utah.
The next segment catches fellow singer-songwriters Vance Gilbert and Christopher Williams at Paul's house for lunch, staying afterwards for a videotaped roundtable discussion. The trio, who have performed together, discuss open tunings, their creative outlets outside of music, "the groove," their audience, and their source of inspiration for writing.
Finally, the DVD concludes with a lesson on some of Paul's opening tuning secrets of several of his songs. Not being a guitar player myself, much of this material went over my head, although I can say I understand the definition of open tuning now and why Paul chooses to play this way. Although the DVD has several weaknesses, for the $20 price, it's a bargain. The combination of Werner and Paul on stage is a big hit. Fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at Paul and his friends.
Concert Track List:
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