Tag Archives: Woody Guthrie

Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul

Friday, April 28, 2017

Chocolate Church Arts Center, Bath, Maine

This was my 48th Ellis Paul show. That might sound like a lot, but I’ve really just seen him a few times a year since my first Ellis show at Bowdoin College back in 2002. He’s obviously my favorite, though, and this was a great night. I was thrilled that Colin could join me, because Ellis is better shared. I had a quick girls dinner at my house and then raced over to Bath’s Chocolate Church Arts Center for the show.

There was no show opener, which I love when I’m seeing my favorite artists (because how could they compare, really), and Ellis took the stage a little after 7:30. He was in a great mood, and was very chatty with the audience, which is my favorite. Ellis had some new banter topics and he led a brief whole audience conversation about which artists we could take or leave. Bob Dylan is my “zero artist,” because I love “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Forever Young” but I’d prefer to hear Dylan songs sung by just about anyone else.



Ellis played a couple of improvised songs at the piano–one about tourist season in Maine, and his encore was a song about how much he loves Tom Brady. He played a lovely song that I’ve maybe only heard once before (always a bonus) about Pawnee, Oklahoma. He explained that “Oklahoma is the Maine of the midwest” and that he was off to Tulsa for the 4th anniversary of the Woody Guthrie Center. He showed us his Woody Guthrie tattoo and told us the story about showing it awkwardly to Arlo after his opening set at the Boston Hatch Shell many years ago and then, many years later, showing it to Nora Guthrie (at her request) while chatting with a random German who ended up becoming her husband. When Ellis offered to play requests, I asked for “God’s Promise” (his music and Woody’s lyrics), which he picked first and I was thrilled to hear. The guy sitting next to me elbowed me with excitement when Ellis picked my request, which was pretty adorable.


img_1613Ellis shared that he’s celebrating 25 years as a touring musician, which is a long time! He read us the Thomas Edison piece from his The Hero in You book, sang a song in progress with verses from many states he’s visited that was hilarious, and generally interacted warmly with us and kept us laughing all night. He came down into the audience to sing “Annalee” together, wrapped up with his Tom Brady love ballad, and send us home smiling. It’s always a pleasure to see Ellis live, and I’m getting excited for my 50th show!

xo,

bree

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Ellis Paul

Friday, September 16, 2016

Johnson Hall, Gardiner, Maine

Ellis Paul is my favorite singer-songwriter. A Maine native, he’s an incredible storyteller, and I have taken every opportunity possible over the last thirteen years to see him live. This was a delightful night, and I’m so glad to have been in the audience. I’d asked Johnson Hall’s Executive Director Mike Miclon to bring Ellis Paul to Johnson Hall when he first took charge of the venue a couple of years ago, and he readily obliged. Before Mike introduced Ellis to the stage, he singled me out and said that this was my 47th Ellis Paul show and gave a kind shout out to whatbreesees.com, as well. Mike said that he trusts my taste in music, so takes my booking advice seriously. It was such a feel good moment for me, and one of the reasons I love seeing shows at Johnson Hall in teeny Gardiner, Maine so much. It feels like home.

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Ellis Paul

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Ellis took the stage and said his pickup on his guitar wasn’t working, so he came down into the audience and played the bulk of his set unplugged from there. It was such an intimate experience, and we loved it. Ellis had written a new song about traveling that he was still using notes for, and a sweet older gentleman was clearly over the moon to be asked to hold it for Ellis while he sang.

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Blurry but precious

Ellis told us about his experience putting Woody Guthrie’s song “God’s Promise” to music (even after embarrassing himself by awkwardly showing Woody’s son Arlo his Woody Guthrie tattoo). I wasn’t surprised that Ellis ended the night with an impromptu ditty on the piano about how women outnumber men 60/40 in colleges and universities and are clearly poised to take over the world. He sang that he’d be voting for Hillary for his two daughters, made a joke about Trump’s bad hair, and got off stage. It turned out that someone in the audience that night wrote him a letter to explain why Hillary is the Anti-Christ and admonished Ellis for talking about politics at a folk show. Clearly, someone is very lacking in the roots and purpose of folk music!  

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From Ellis Paul’s Facebook page

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As always, it’s a pleasure to see Ellis live. I went up to see the unfinished Opera House on the top levels of Johnson Hall after the show (there’s been some new money pledged to the renovation project, too!) and just before I left, Mike told Ellis that I can really sing and that we should do a duet at my 50th Ellis show. Sounds like a plan to me!

xo,

bree

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Ellis Paul

Monday, March 10, 2014

Slates, Hallowell, Maine

I hadn’t seen Ellis Paul in almost a year, so I was excited that my sweetie could take the night off and join me for his first Ellis Paul show (my 41st). When I tell people how many times I’ve seen Ellis live they tend to startle, but those are people who haven’t seen him live yet—or they’d know it’s actually a perfectly reasonable number.

Jeff and I got to Slates in Hallowell (just five miles from my house) in time for coffee and dessert and to settle into our front row seats. Ellis said hello to folks (a lot of familiar faces in the crowd for him, I’m sure) as he took the stage. He opened with “Chasing Beauty,” a song about a road trip he took in his sister’s Ford Pinto when he was 20. He joked about tattoos before playing “Rose Tattoo” and told us that his Woody Guthrie tattoo doesn’t look much like Woody since he got it decades ago. He suggested that tattoo artists show patrons age progression images of our tattoos before letting us actually commit to getting them.

Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul

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Ellis was chatty that night, and he talked at length about the surge in digital music and how sad it is we’ve lost music we can hold in our hands. He reminisced about how important it used to be to read the liner notes when we bought a new record, tape, or CD. He got home from a show in Texas where he rented a car with no CD player (those are almost gone, he lamented) and went straight home and bought his daughters a record player. He brought it to the show and played a Neil Young album on it. It was nice to hear the grit. Ellis’ newest fan-funded album, Chasing Beauty, will obviously come in LP as well. He’ll be doing a Concert Window show on Wednesday, May 28th at 8pm EST to celebrate the album release and will be playing songs live over the Internet from his home.

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He told the hilarious story of his beautiful guitar Guinness and how Neil Young is a guitar dream crusher. It was exciting that Ellis played a new song for us—one he’d only played live the whole way through on guitar with vocals the day before. Did I write this lyric down right from that song? “Love—you’ve done me in.” I liked it. Even Ellis’ new songs seem tried and true. Jeff mentioned that to me after the show (which he really liked). He said Ellis’ songs felt “complete,” and added, “you know how a song sounds familiar even though you know you’ve never heard it before—that’s how I felt about Ellis’ songs.”

I really enjoyed hearing Ellis discuss his song about the Empire State Building. He talked about Arlo Guthrie’s hit “City of New Orleans” (written by Steve Goodman) in which the chorus is written from the perspective of the train. His song, “Empire State,” is written from the perspective of the building. The Empire State Building was built during the Great Depression. It had never occurred to me, but Ellis reminded us, that the poorest immigrants in our country built that extraordinary structure in less than two years for some of the richest people in our country. “Empire State” is the epitome of a folk song—loaded with social commentary and rich history.

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Ellis asked if we had any audience requests and played “Roll Away Bed” for us. He admitted that he was really the one in the relationship with the sleeping issues but says it was his girlfriend in the song. He joked that he ended up in a blanket burrito in the morning while she awoke without covers. The analytics from his website tell him that the number two thing people search that bring them to ellispaul.com is “roll away bed,” which is probably people really looking for portable beds, but he’ll take it.

Ellis gets a lot of letters from soldiers and has written songs about war and its aftermath. His newest is “Plastic Soldiers”—a protest song written with jazz chords. It was a real stand out that night. It’s startling and powerful without being preachy. The chorus goes “Come home soldier/Dinner’s getting colder/It’s time to put your toys away/Marching orders/Backyard borders/You will live to fight another day/Oh, put your plastic soldiers away.”

Ellis told us he was honored to be asked to be the commencement speaker in his homeland at University of Maine Presque Isle where he’ll receive an honorary doctorate next month. He’s also been asked to write their alma mater song. He reminisced about being young in 1982 and a state champion runner to boot. He said he got a hero’s welcome (with fire trucks and all) when he arrived home from competing and was given the key to the city when he was just 17 years old. Aroostook County has been good to him, he said.

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Someone asked him to play “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down,” which is featured in Me, Myself, and Irene starring Jim Carey. Apparently there’s a zombie version of it someone put up on YouTube and another version (among many) with a guy in a cowboy hat dancing all over London. It’s Ellis’ most commercially successful song with over 1.5 million hits on YouTube, but it’s earned him less than $4 in royalties. Apparently, he was recently asked to testify in Washington DC about music rights for singer-songwriters.

Ellis wrapped the show with “Kick Out the Lights”—a song about Johnny Cash kicking out the stage lights at the Grand Ole Opry. It’s a fun song with boisterous sing along parts for the men and women in the audience. It brought us all together to finish a great night. We asked for an encore and Ellis kindly obliged with “Snow in Austin”—a song about a long-distance relationship between two people living in Austin and Boston.

This Extended Play Session featuring Ellis on Alternate Route TV shows him discussing and playing a lot of newer songs. If you can’t make it out tomorrow night to see Ellis at the Camden Opera House, this might have to do until he’s back in town!

Thanks, Ellis! Looking forward to Chasing Beauty and show #42!

xo,

bree

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