Gregory Paul – This Side of the Ground

 

Gregory Paul - This Side of the Ground

Gregory Paul - This Side of the Ground

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Gregory Paul has never been the type of artist easily pigeonholed into a particular sound. His various projects have run the gambit from college acoustic rock to shoegaze and experimental soundscapes to indie-rock and Americana, both in his solo works and recently with the band Autumdivers. Most recently, he’s explored the roots of his musical inspirations, participating in the old-time band The Vanish Cooks and playing guitar in the often rootsy pop band Hinkley and on his latest release, This Side of the Ground.

 

Ironically, as he leaves the proximity of the Appalachians for the West Coast, he has embraced the Appalachian sound on his latest solo release. Mixing roots rock, folk, and old-time influences with a modern pop-based structure and a penchant for experimentation, Paul may have produced his best solo release to date, despite the difficulty in marketing such styles to his more familiar indie-rock fanbase. But neither will this be your great-grandfather’s music; Paul’s description of the album as Gothic Americana, folk-noir, and psych-folk is a better description than I could come up with. He uses banjo, guitar, bow, slide, and musical saw throughout this album, along with plenty of experimental effects and doses of keyboards or strings.

The bookends of This Side of the Ground are as traditional as the music can get. Starting with the haunting sounds of a train in the distance, “O Death” is a cover of legendary bluegrass performer Ralph Stanley, and the closing “Wayfaring Stranger” is a traditional folk song known as a white spiritual. In between, we get examples of Paul’s versatility and experimentalism with both traditional and modern song structures. Gorgeously echoed guitar and Paul’s crystal smooth voice is the foundation for “Takes One to Know One,” but underneath are washes of sound, adding an almost otherworldly feel to the song. The nearly heartbreaking “Threadbare Heart” is a soft song that showcases Paul’s voice (think a cleaner Will Sheff from Okkervil River) and songwriting, and the finger-picking in the moving “Augeries” and “”House of Cards” are standout moments on the album. By contrast, “Isms” is a sweet and soft tune, riding light piano in addition to guitar and some interesting found sounds, such as fireworks exploding in the distance.

Some of the most interesting songs here are the more roots-oriented tracks. On “Dusty Man,” Paul shows his finger-picking talents on the banjo and adds in the haunting sounds of cello to the background of this melancholy song. “Daisy Beach” is a rich Gothic-influenced song akin to 16 Horsepower, and “Star Crossed Again” is a quiet, folky acoustic number made special by Paul’s strong vocals. An ode to Rochester stalwart George Eastman, “Celluloid King” is a classic folk-noir number.

It’s fascinating following the career of a musician with such versatility and creativity as Gregory Paul. You’re never sure what to expect next from the musician, other than perfect production and top-notch instrumentation. This Side of the Ground is one of my favorite Gregory Paul albums, and while it doesn’t have as much immediate marketability as some of his past releases, it showcases the skills of this artist and his love for the music that brought him here. Fans of acoustic, roots-driven music as well as experimental independent songs will surely enjoy this.

www.gregorypaul.com