Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert are two of the best-known voices on the contemporary acoustic music scene. They are also the best of friends. Over the years they have shared a stage and even a tour or two. They have each written songs about their unique friendship. But they have not recorded together until now. Side of the Road is a gift to fans and new listeners alike. It is a true collaboration of two very distinct musicians who bring their individual talents together to create a very warm and rewarding project.
Side of the Road is a reflection of two close friends on caring and connection in a post-9/11 world. The recording opens with Mark Erelli's wonderful The Only Way. Ellis Paul takes the lead vocal on this hopeful take on what one can do in the face of inexplicable happenings:
Lucinda Williams' Side of the Road, the title song, is a beautiful tune with Gilbert's rich, soulful voice taking the lead. Lorne Entress on drums drives the percussion.
Citizen of the World is the recording's best cut, written by Ellis Paul, Vance Gilbert and Sharon Teeler. With reference to the events of September eleventh, the vocalists point out that although we may come from different places, follow different creeds and paths, we are all part of the same world. It is a very moving tribute to how we can come together as friends and as people who care about our planet. Paul and Gilbert's harmonies take flight and soar here. This is a truly stunning performance.
The recording's offerings are mostly well-chosen covers by songwriters like Susan Werner, Vance Morrison and Woody Guthrie. The late Dave Carter's lovely, stirring Gentle Arms of Eden and the beautiful arrangement of Neil Young's Comes A Time deserve special note.
Gilbert and Paul take turns providing lead vocal while the other provides backing vocal and instrumental accompaniment (Paul on guitar; Gilbert on guitar or tambourine/clarinets). For fans of one or the other musician, there is a lot here to satisfy all.
Side of the Road is one of the best collaborations I have heard. Paul's and Gilbert's talents come together in a wonderful tapestry of well-chosen songs and beautifully arranged harmonies. The accompanying players are some of the best in the business, including the aforementioned Entress on drums, along with guitar god Duke Levine, Richard Gates on bass, Jake Amerding on fiddle and mandolin, Tom West on organ and piano with special guest Don Conoscenti on banjo. Side of the Road is a celebration of friendship, humanity and most of all, great music. Let's hope for many more collaborations from Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert in the years to come. This recording is simply a joy to listen to.
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