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Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert
SIDE OF THE ROAD
(Rounder)
Stars graphics

Two of New Englandís most popular troubadours, Vance Gilbert and Ellis Paul have been friends and occasional stage partners since they met at Allstonís Naked City Coffeehouse in the late 1980s. Nonetheless, this is the first time theyíve recorded together. The songs are superbly written, whether their own or the well-chosen covers, which include Lucinda Williamsís soul-searching title track, Mark Erelliís affirmation of life "The Only Way," and a version of Neil Youngís "Comes a Time" thatís been a regular feature of Paulís concerts. All the numbers were chosen to reflect the state of American life after September 11, and theyíre populated with characters who are examining their place in the world.

Expertly played by musicians like MVP guitarist and producer Duke Levine, these tunes sound best when both singers twine their voices in harmony. Gilbert has a wider range and more flexible pipes, and he proves a warm foil for Paulís reedy, sincere tenor, which is no less affecting on the Young tune and his own prayerful "Alone Down Here." Songs ripe with thorny introspection arenít always the kindest listening, but the graceful, intimate way Paul and Gilbert raise nettlesome questions makes this album a balm for troubled times.

(Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert appear this Saturday, November 22, at the Somerville Theatre; call 617-628-3390.)

BY TED DROZDOWSKI


Issue Date: November 21 - 27, 2003
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