With Halloween approaching, I’ll offer Ellis Paul’s haunting “Conversation with a Ghost.” In the linked video, he provides an interesting narrative about the song and the ghost named Margaret “Pug” Putnam, a nurse during the Civil War. When jilted, perhaps a Ouija board (and a few letters from Margaret) are the only way to get answers. Or perhaps the song is an emotional tribute to a departed love who has fought a losing battle with illness or disease. The second video (with Susan Werner also on piano) makes the conversation all the more poignant, especially when she asks “Hey, are all those things you told me once still true?”
Ellis Paul’s 2006 double album “Essentials” (released on the reputable Rounder Records label) provides a great historical overview of Ellis Paul' songwriting for the past twenty years. He has many many kinds of songs over the years - folk, love, pop, story, rock, and even novelty songs. The two and one-half hours of music on “Essentials” deserves close listening and analysis of melodies, lyrics, messages, and arrangements. He's worked with seven producers over the years and many more musicians.
Paul attributes "Conversation With A Ghost" (released in 1992) as the first song that brought people out to the clubs of Boston to hear him play. Folksinger Bill Morrissey was producing his music back then. More recently, in 2012, Paul has released a brand new family album entitled “The Hero in You,” with original songs about the great impact that several free thinkers, risk takers and innovators have had on American culture and history.
From the stock of Maine potato farmers, Ellis Paul moved to Boston, studied music, connected with the roots of the folk genre, then proceeded to develop a signature singer/songwriter sound that now incorporates pop, rock and contemporary sensibilities. Ellis Paul's wise perceptiveness and charisma have built him a strong fan base. He's also a hardworking, resilient touring artist who has garnered numerous awards for about a dozen album releases and music, some of which has been featured in film soundtracks.
Ellis Paul's voice has character, and his songs understand the bond between land, life, heart and soul as he creates feelings of intimacy and familiarity. The masterful singer/songwriter’s messages are profound, and they make us think. As with “Conversation with a Ghost,” Ellis Paul's imagination and skill are both polished and fanciful all in one.