Record Review - 4 October 09 2002

On his first studio album in four years, Ellis Paul attempts to push past the “sensitive folkie” tag and into more expansive crossover territory. But like a great actor trying to coax a meaningful performance out of a mediocre script, the singer works too hard to make his lyrics sound significant. Even on genuine weepers like “If You Break Down,” Paul has his finger on the cry button, emoting with a determination that sounds like pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Production by Mary Chapin Carpenter guitarist Duke Levine seems determined to bulk up these weak songs into sand-kicking bully anthems. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to break out of an established mode, but on The Speed of Trees Paul foists bloated Bono-like intentions on material that can’t withstand the pressure. The result is a portrait of a talented and ambitious artist eager to move past the Eddie’s Attic-sized venues he plays, but one whose reach exceeds his grasp.

Ellis Paul plays Eddie’s Attic Sat., Oct. 12.??