’55’ – Ellis Paul

5 stars (out of 5)


Twenty-three albums in and still creating powerful and memorable songs; I guess most songwriters would be happy with that. What ‘55’ has in common with most of the albums reviewed here recently is the influence of the pandemic still looms large in the way the album came together and in the subject matter of some of the songs. The influence that Ellis Paul’s latest album doesn’t have in common with recent albums is that it was written and put together in the shadow of Ellis Paul’s diagnosis with Dupuytren’s Contracture which over a period of time pulls the fingers into a fist shape. There’s probably nothing more terrifying for a professional performing musician. One other thing, Ellis listened to The Beatles a lot during the making of ’55’ and happily admits to the influences of the Fab Four on the finished album.

The quality of the songs is superb throughout from the gentle, lilting opener ‘Cosmos’ with its bitter-sweet lyrical reference “And I used my hands till they turned to sand” to the closer ‘A Song to Say Goodbye’ telling the story of the start and finish of a romance. There’s a love song to his partner Laurie MacAllister (who delivers some stunning harmonies across the album), while ‘Be the Fire’ is advice from a father to a child.

The two songs showing the strongest Beatles influences are ‘The Gift’, a story of friendship that has a very George Harrison guitar sound while ‘Tattoo Lady’ has crowd noise and circus themes that reference ‘Sergeant Pepper’. And that’s all before we get to the three songs that push all of my buttons.

‘Holy’ is a fictitious tale of an Irish dreamer, Declan McClaren who wants to travel to America to reignite an old flame. As the arrangement builds, it adds more Celtic elements to the mix, evoking the feel of rushing ahead by train during Declan’s escape. The twist in the tale comes when we realise that the ship he’s boarding is The Titanic. The song’s ambiguous about the fate of the central character, but the records show that a man named McClaren did survive the disaster. ‘When Angels Fall’ is a song with a political message written after the Uvalde school shooting. It’s written from the shooter’s viewpoint, apart from the chorus, which has a clear message ‘Fight for your guns, or fight for your children’.

The album’s title song is a wistful look at surviving until the age of 55 in the time of pandemic. It’s a combination of nostalgia for the things superseded in our lifetimes, celebration of survival and a memorial for those we’ve lost; the death of John Prine gets a mention as well as the wholesale cancellation of gigs because of the pandemic. The twist comes in the tail again with the positive emphasis of Ellis’s daughter. These three songs alone make the album essential listening; add the remaining nine and you have a classic of its genre.

‘55’ is released in the UK on Friday June 9th on Rosella Records (ROSELLA002).

Here’s the official video for ‘Gold in California’ from the album:


One Response to “’55’ – Ellis Paul”
  1. Duffy Spies says:

    I love Ellis Paul. He’s a highly under rated not known but to a few, musical master mind.

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