Ann Paul: “STAY” – eloquently performed

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It’s not easy to find really excellent singer-songwriters anymore, but in Ann Paul the talent has been found as she’s an amazing artist. Her arrangements are kept fairly simple and the words flow smoothly. Sometimes she’ll remind you of a straight acoustic folk singer voice… and then at other times there’s a shot of rhythm mixed into the arrangements which just lures the listener into her mellow groove. Ann is an artist from New York who currently resides on the North Fork of Long Island. She was drawn to music at an early age and taught herself the basics before studying classical guitar as a teenager. She began to write songs while in college and has continued to work on her song writing ever since. Ann has just released her second album, entitled “STAY” through Innsbruck Records. The songs are available for licensing through SONY/THE ORCHARD.

Twelve tracks in total, each resembles Ann’s typical airy, smooth sound. First is “One Minute” which features the sweet melodic hook: “Give me just one minute / You say it isn’t clear / Just one minute / Because your heart landed here.” The sound of Ann’s voice slowly drawing you in. Once the mood is set, the signature acoustic guitar played by Andrew Carillo, who also produced the album, makes itself heard on “The Road Less Taken”, blended with an electric piano and a steady drum beat to build the tempo.

This only helps to amplify the blissful sound associated with all of Ann’s music. Next up, is one of my favorites, “For Certain”, which starts with an ominous line: “The weather has taken a turn / I can’t really define.” This is a nostalgic song reflecting on a love lost with just a flicker of hope embedded in its root.

Ann Paul’s use of elegant pop structures with choruses that will remain stuck in your head is the vessel she uses to compliment her soft, soothing vocal style. On each song she brings diverse elements to that core formula, to alter the mood, timbre and style. Something you can instantly perceive on the bluesy “Seed Of Doubt” or the lovely Americana induced “Dusty Train”.

But the key to most of these songs is that they don’t simply sound like containers for a catchy hook. You won’t find cheap, processed beats that only pop seems inclined to use, on this album. Instead in its place is warm, organic live instrumentation that much better suites a voice like that of Ann Paul.

In a time when labels are perfectly content to load an album with a few singles and a bunch of filler, it’s refreshing to be able to listen to “STAY” from beginning to end without having to skip any tracks. It’s also amazing how Ann smoothly switches from a crunchy rocker like “This State of Love” to bare-boned acoustic soundscape like the titular track “Stay”.

Listening to “Oh Darling” and “Don’t Think”, I realize that melodically Ann’s songs sound deceivingly ‘simple’, yet they speak so uniquely to her voice that someone else singing her songs would lose that ‘heartwarming simplicity’ effect she has.

As the album draws to a close, I am attracted by the final two songs, especially “The Great Artist” which is so eloquently performed, I am forced to hit replay a number of times. The music is warm, nuanced, intensely hued, and from the heart.

Ann Paul is a refreshing and gifted artist, while her music stands on its own merit with no need for bells and whistles. If you like organically driven music with dominant acoustic guitars and genuinely beautiful vocals search no further.

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