Sounds Local

Honest, literate lyrics

Singer-songwriter Ellis Paul, a major talent, plays Arts Block Friday

In the early 1990s, there was a major folk renaissance in the Boston area that gave rise to a host of new talent, including Catie Curtis, Patty Griffin, Vance Gilbert, Martin Sexton and Ellis Paul. Since emerging from that scene, Paul has gone on to establish himself as a major force in the singer-songwriter world. He has released over 16 CDs, endlessly tours the country and has won an unprecedented 15 Boston music awards.

Most listeners will recognize his song “The World Ain’t Slowin Down” as it was the title track in the Jim Carrey hit “Me Myself and Irene.” His work has appeared in two other Farrelly Brothers films: “Shallow Hall” and “Hall Pass.”

Paul is a longtime favorite here in western Massachusetts and has played to packed houses at venues like the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton. He has been an inspiration for many young songwriters, including Shelburne Falls native Seth Glier. Glier teamed with Paul to write two songs that appear on Glier’s latest release, “Things I Should Let You Know.”

Paul will perform at The Arts Block, 289 Main St., Greenfield, on Friday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. The show is a benefit for the Franklin County Tech School drum line and Electrathon Racing Team.

Rebecca Loebe, a singer-songwriter from Virginia who appeared on the 2011 season of “The Voice” will open.

This is the second year that Paul has done a benefit show for the school; last September, he performed a sold-out show at Burrito Rojo in Turners Falls.

Paul was raised in Maine and attended Boston College on a track scholarship. After an injury left him sidelined, he picked up a guitar and started performing at open mics. He was eventually discovered by New England singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey, who produced his first album, “Say Something.” From the start, Paul won audiences over with his strong pop sensibility and his honest, literate lyrics that told stories of life in the manner reminiscent of his musical idol, Woody Guthrie.

These days, Paul lives in Virginia and is working on an album that should be released later this year. The project is totally fan-funded and is being produced by Kristian Bush, half of the award-winning duo Sugarland.

“I’ve known Kristian Bush for a long time and he’s always an inspiration to work with. Since he’s also a great songwriter, he understands how to take care of the song in the studio,” said Paul in an email. “He’s a talented guy. And a great cheerleader. He’s the kind of guy that you’d want at your construction site or an IBM building meeting on websites, he just knows how to make everyone rise to the occasion.”

“Plastic Soldiers,” one of the songs he co-wrote with Glier, will appear on this album: “It’s time to put your toys away/Marching order, backyard borders/You will live to fight another day/Put the plastic soldiers away.” So goes the chorus to the song about a young boy who grows up to be a soldier who loses his legs in combat and then must decide if his own son should play with plastic soldiers.

Glier has said that this is one of his songs he takes the most pride in. When I spoke to Glier after the release of “Things I Should Let You Know” he added that it was a privilege to write with Paul, whom he considers “one of the greatest songwriters in the world.”

“Seth brought ‘Plastic Soldiers’ to me as an idea and we worked it into a very real story. Funny how an idea can go from an idea to a living breathing song,” Paul said.” We built it word by word, note by note in my kitchen. Sometimes a piece of fiction is truer than real life. I think we did that with this song.”

The two also wrote a song called “Poppies on the Table.”

“I may do ‘Poppies’ sometime, we had fun with that,” Paul said. “But he wrote the piano part and I can’t play like that kid. He uses every finger.”

Paul has released two acclaimed albums for children and, last year, released a collection of Christmas songs. Despite his wealth of recorded material, he is most at home on stage delighting audiences with his compelling stories and songs. Paul performs over 150 shows a year and we are fortunate that one of these stops will be in Greenfield and that he is generously lending his time and talent to support the Franklin County Tech School.

Advance tickets are $12 available at Tickets at the door are $15. This is an all ages, general admission show.

Robin & Linda Williams
show postponed

The Robin & Linda Williams and their Fine Group show scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21 at Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls has been postponed. It was announced late last week that Williams must undergo surgery this month. This show was one of three new England dates that the Williams were doing to benefit the Connecticut River Watershed Council.

“Unfortunately, Robin broke some ribs earlier this summer and needs surgery to fully heal,” wrote Andrew Fisk, the council’s executive director. “Robin & Linda and their Fine Group are eager to reschedule with us, so the show will go on in spring 2014.”

Those interested in receiving notice about the new dates can email or call 413-772-2020, ext. 207. All previously purchased tickets will be honored at the new show, or you can request a refund.

Michelle Chamuel, star of ‘The Voice,’ will talk in Northampton Sept. 21

Amherst resident Michelle Chamuel has laid low since returning to the area after coming in second on the fourth season of the popular singing competition television show “The Voice.” But on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 7:30 p.m. she will talk about self-expression through art and her creative process as a musician at First Churches of Northampton, located at 129 Main St. This on-stage interview is a fundraiser for “Voices from Inside,” an organization that provides writing groups for women who are incarcerated or who have been incarcerated.

Chamuel has a new CD out called “All I Want,” which she has released under the moniker the Reverb Junkie. The sound is a far cry from the pop vocal stylings she displayed on “The Voice” and is more in the indie rock vein.

Tickets for the talk range from $15 to $50 and are available at

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at

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