On any night in 1989, you could've found me roaming around the streets of Boston lurking within a pack of guitar carrying songwriters in their early twenties. We were on a mission to find a stage and a microphone and an audience who would listen to whatever we had been carving out for songs in our living rooms. The ever evolving pack included Jon Svetkey, Dar Williams, Jonatha Brooke, Martin Sexton, Patty Griffin, Jennifer Kimball, Jim Infantino, Brian Doser, Barb Kessler, Vance Gilbert-- all of whom carved their names out onto both the local and national folk scene in the decade that followed.
We were all green and eager and innocent to the struggle that laid before us. The path of the artist and the path of the dreamer were one and the same back then, and they had yet to diverge at Reality's crossroad. Ignorance is bliss-- we didn't think we were that bad, in fact we all thought we were the nextcoming of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, and we set out to prove it-- parking ourselves in the smokey bars and clubs that had open mikes-- O'Brian's in Allston, The Nameless Coffeehouse in Cambridge, The Old Vienna in Westboro... Long friendhsips were made at that time, that are still very important to me.
And man, it was a heady time. I knew something special was in the making, and the ground work of artists like Patty Larkin and Bill Morrissey had paved the way for us, as we then paved the way for those who have followed in increasing numbers behind us. The current scene, judging by the happenings at Club Passim and the suburban coffeehouses both in Boston and around the country, is filled to the gills with fresh talent. There are more people doing music now, the technology to record a good album can be brought to everyone's living room...and the competition out there is fierce now, but the next stars are still coming-- Jess Klein, Kevin So, Christopher Williams, and the path will follow behind them.
I remember hearing Martin Sexton yodeling into a lonely street mike in Harvard Square, Dar William's shyly handing me her first demo tape of songs, Patty Griffin's aching voice tearing up the room at the Old Vienna, The Story's surreal harmonies in Cambridge at the Nameless Coffeehouse, John Svetkey stomping in those black and white saddle shoes, Jim Infantino cracking them up simply with facial expressions and eye brow extensions... It was a time...
This tape was my first effort and sold a few thousand copies in Boston thanks to the very kind help of WERS. I was driving to work one morning in cool October and heard my voice crackling in over my van's beat up radio. I pulled on over. They played "Ashes to Dust" and I rolled down my window and howled and let the rest of the world hear it at full volume... They have been kindly playing me ever since... (thank you... )
So why re-release these songs? People have been at us to do this for sometime. I think they are of value to the people who collect my music, or those who discovered these songs back in 1989 and 1990. It sounds very green to me, and I can't listen without blushing at times (not from pride). At times I say to myself when listening here, "What was i thinking?" "Lonely Man"?!! Good Lord... and then it hits me, that I wasn't thinking at all, I was just playing without worrying about a record deal, a gig, an agent, a critic, a career, etc... the emphasis was on playing music and not knowing any better... I miss those days at times... This album will be available only at the website and at shows.
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of you who have taken an interest in my work, and please, do keep coming out! The best is yet to come...
take care-- Ellis Paul Boston, MA Sept. 1, 2000
The Players: Ellis Paul, vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitars Jon Svetkey, backing vocals, acoustic guitars Brendan Devitt, backing vocals, acoustic guitars Rob Moore, mandolin Tom Scanlon, acoustic guitars Cassie Ryland, background vocals
URBAN FOLKSONGS produced in 1989 by Bruce Bartone at Honey Bear Studios, Cambridge, MA and Tom Dube, Playtime Studios, Boston, MA