Below is a review I was asked to write for the new Paul Lewis CD, Trading Horror Stories (hence the somewhat overwrought, out-of-character stylism of certain passages – it’s a review, after all). In the interest of full disclosure:
- Paul is a close friend.
- I co-wrote one of the songs on the record.
Ergo, I may not be fully objective.
However, if you feel you can trust me to separate from my emotional involvement with the music a little bit, please take my recommendation on the record seriously. It’s a really nice piece of work, and I’m proud to be a small part of it.
There are a lot of reasons why we gravitate toward certain music and artists. Reasons why we own dozens, even hundreds of CDs, but keep coming back to a select few, playing them over and over and over again. Compelling tunes. Deft musicianship. Lyrics that communicate insight, depth of experience, worldliness, joy, pain. That speak to our hopes. Our fears. To who we are and who we dream of being.
Personality. Charisma. Cool factor. A beat you can dance to.
Ever so rarely we trip across an artist who’s blessed with that unquantifiable, nearly magical all of the above, someone who’s equal parts singer, player, tunesmith, poet, thinker, star. Born to the form. A performer who is the music. An artist with a gift for connecting all the dots, for understanding the complexities of our personal, social, and political worlds, and for bringing us music that helps make sense of it all, if only for a brief moment….
Paul Lewis is one of those special ones, and those who have been flocking to his live shows since the late ‘80s will gladly tell you all about it. For those who haven’t yet made Paul’s acquaintance, the truth is 63:47 away in the form of Trading Horror Stories, his second solo release, one of the richest and most nuanced exhibitions of pure soul rock to come down the pike in quite some time.
Featuring head-on drivers like “Original Sin” and “The Painting” (a spectacular new hidden-track take on the old YNOT?! highspot), jazz-inflected down-tempo grooves like “Teardrop,” the Santana/Thomas-esque strut of “Last Resorts,” and the introspective clarity of slower moments like the lush “Bittersweet,” THS strikes a delicate balance between the personal and political, between rage and subtlety, between the dead-serious and the pretty-darned-funny.
It doesn’t hurt that Paul has one of the best pure voices in all of popular music, an alternately silk-and-gravel baritone that almost makes you wonder if people would line up to hear him sing a note to the milkman. He filled the studio with an impressive roster of musicians for THS, too – frequent sidekicks Chris Kleckner and Dave Manners take turns on guitar, Tom Macri and Jude Vitilio anchor the rhythm section, and long-time collaborator Darryl Joiner mans the keys (a number of other names familiar to YNOT?! and Dead City Radio faithful put in well-timed cameo appearances, as well.)
If there’s anything at all wrong with Trading Horror Stories, it’s the simple fact that to date no studio has been designed capable of harnessing the electricity and sheer drama of a live Paul Lewis show. Fortunately, Paul is coming to a stage near you…