The Speed of Trees
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||Maria's Beautiful Mess||Ellis Paul||4:58||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Give In, Give Up||Ellis Paul||4:34||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Eighteen||Ellis Paul||4:29||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||If You Breakdown||Ellis Paul||4:24||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||The Ballad of Chris McCandless||Ellis Paul||5:02||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Sweet Mistakes||Ellis Paul||4:11||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Words||Ellis Paul||4:09||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Roll Away Bed||Ellis Paul||4:44||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Breaking Through the Radio||Ellis Paul||3:30||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||When We Begin||Ellis Paul||4:23||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Gods Promise||Ellis Paul||4:51||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||The Speed of Trees||Ellis Paul||3:13||$0.99||View in iTunes|
The Speed of Trees once again confirms Ellis Paul's standing among the very best singer/songwriters to emerge from Boston in the 1990s, a decade in which that city became the nation's capital of contemporary folk music. With insightfully upbeat lyrics and melodies that soar, surprise, and stick to the brain, the songwriting on this album represents a significant improvement on Translucent Soul, Paul's prior major-studio effort for Philo Records. The earlier album was sharply produced by Jerry Marotta, but its introspective songs were uncharacteristically repetitive and sometimes overly sentimental. The follow-up, released fully four years later, suffers from the reverse problem. The Speed of Trees reunites Paul with Stories producer Duke Levine, an electric guitar specialist who has tended to favor bland folk-rock arrangements that obscure the crisp acoustic guitar style that is one of Paul's strengths. With The Speed of Trees, Levine's shortcomings lie not so much in instrumentation as pace. Though Paul's guitars are still sometimes overpowered by Levine's, most of these songs are presented in creative settings that utilize both acoustic and electric instruments. If the sound and mix quality were a little better, the only problem would be the strangely sluggish tempo of the record. Of course, this complaint doesn't apply to ballads like "If You Break Down," "Eighteen," and "When We Begin," which come across beautifully in relaxed settings that include cello, mandolin, and pedal steel. But on faster songs like "Maria's Beautiful Mess," "Sweet Mistakes," and "Give in, Give Up," which seem to want to reach into power pop territory, Paul sounds as if he's driving on the freeway with the parking brake on. Perhaps Paul and Levine were attempting to demonstrate the title track's idea of "moving at the speed of trees." But the trouble is that Paul's superbly crafted songs often seem to be aiming for the speed of sound.
So much potential...
With every album, Ellis Paul has expanded his abilities as a songwriter and as a musician, and The Speed of Trees continues this trend. What also continues is Paul's fondness for heavy production. He succeeds more than he has in the past, with the albums Stories and Translucent Soul coming immediately to mind. "Eighteen," "If You Break Down," "Words," and "The Ballad of Chris McCandless" work well, in some ways improving upon the vocals-and-guitar presentation of Paul's live shows. Other songs, however, such as "Maria's Beautiful Mess," "Give In, Give Up," and "When We Begin" get bogged down by all the additional instrumentation. Although the quality of the songs themselves is excellent, the album is uneven in its production. Translucent Soul could have been a five-star collection (with perhaps the exception of "Breaking Through the Radio"), but it fails to live up to its potential.
Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s