Friday, May 13, 2011

Ellis Paul: "The Speed Of Trees" (2002) CD Review

Ellis Paul is one of the best songwriters. Period. And he has a wonderful voice. Add to that an incredible stage presence, and it's no wonder why people go to his concerts over and over.

The material on this album is among the best Ellis Paul has ever recorded. The Speed Of Trees is an incredible album.

"Maria's Beautiful Mess"

Ellis Paul starts the album off with "Maria's Beautiful Mess," a song with which he often opens his live performances. It's one of the best songs he's ever written, and that's saying something. The lyrics are excellent. Here is a taste: "And she loves like it's thirst/Like she's never been hurt,/She's dancing just like nobody's watching." This is a great version of the song.

"Give In, Give Up"
"Give In, Give Up" is another of his best songs. It's so beautiful, and so positive, especially when he sings, "And the colors we choose/Are yellows and blues/Let's paint the sky over and over." His voice is amazing on this song. "The dance comes down to this/Every love will bring a risk."

"Eighteen" is just a great song, and Duke Levine has done some wonderful work on this version.

"If You Break Down"

"If You Break Down" is a sweet and quiet song of reassurance. Ellis sings, "And if you break down/I'm at your shoulder/Take me at my word/You can break down/I will tell you over and over/A reliable sound is coming around/If you break down." Who doesn't want to hear that?

"The Ballad Of Chris McCandless" - Into The Wild
"The Ballad Of Chris McCandless" is a song about the young man who left his home and family and hitchhiked his way up into Alaska. He found an old school bus and lived in it, and died in it. His story will be familiar to folks who saw the 2007 film Into The Wild, which starred Emile Hirsch as Chris McCandless. That movie was inspired by the same book that inspired Ellis Paul to write this song - Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer.

"When We Begin"

"When We Begin" is another quiet, sweet beautiful song. The chorus is "Tell me the story/Of all your past glories/The lovers, the losers, the friends/Spill all your magic/The good times, and the tragic/Tonight will this mystery end?/When we begin." Wonderful.

Woody Guthrie Song, "God's Promise"
"God's Promise" is a song whose lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie. Woody Guthrie wrote something like 4,000 songs. Most of these were never recorded. The Guthrie family has been allowing certain musicians and singers to look through these unrecorded songs, and choose from them songs to record. Billy Bragg & Wilco put out two albums of songs from this collection. Ellis Paul chose to record "God's Promise."

"The Speed Of Trees"

The album concludes with "The Speed Of Trees," the title track. Ellis Paul wrote this song in Big Sur, and it's a really cool song. The lyrics include, "Your love makes me move at the/Speed of trees/I've laid down some roots/I've grown a head full/Of make-believes/But if it weren't for that face of yours/I'd be rattling windows blowing down doors."

Musicians On CD Include Duke Levine and Lucy Kaplansky

The musicians on this album are as follows: Ellis Paul on vocals, acoustic guitars and harmonica; Duke Levine on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, mandola, electric sitar, lap steel, piano, bass, organ and Wurlitzer (geez, what instruments doesn't this guy play?); Kevin Barry on electric guitar, acoustic guitar and bass; Paul Bryan on Chamberlin keys and bass; Tom West on Hammond B-3 and piano; John Sands on drums and percussion; Mike Meadows on percussion; Lucky Kaplansky on backing vocals; Jennifer Kimball on backing vocals; Frank Gallagher on viola; Dennis Brennan on backing vocals; and Chris Cote on backing vocals.

Ellis Paul wrote all of the songs on this CD with the exception of "God's Promise." Duke Levine produced the album.

CD Track List
  1. Maria's Beautiful Mess
  2. Give In, Give Up
  3. Eighteen
  4. If You Break Down
  5. The Ballad Of Chris McCandless
  6. Sweet Mistakes
  7. Words
  8. Roll Away Bed
  9. Breaking Through The Radio
  10. When We Begin
  11. God's Promise
  12. The Speed Of Trees

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