Paul Childers - Naked Poetry
Paul Childers hails from the Nashville area, but no one will ever confuse him with Music City’s typically country performers. His approach and style is urbane and deeply musical with style to burn., but there’s a lot of substance paired with the obvious stylishness. Childers displays all the finesse and musical acumen of a much older singer – the phrasing he serves up through the album’s run of thirteen songs is next to unforgettable and it’s filled with an emotive beauty that never overstates its case. Childers, instead, imposes an inviting but commanding air over these songs and molds his voice quite nicely around the rich musical arrangements. Naked Poetry is just that – an expression of self completely stripped of pretense, yet shaped by technique and inspiration for maximum effect. The sparkling performances comprising this release are among the year’s most memorable.
Naked Poetry begins with the song “Music Pulls You Through”. If this were anyone else, it probably wouldn’t come off as sincere. The redemptive power of music to get you through a bad time doesn’t exactly rate as an inventive or particularly revelatory lyrical subject, but Childers’ songwriting has a real knack for specific and meaningful details that help listeners’ better experience the song. It’s a recurring strength. “The Art of Being Twenty” benefits from the same across the board excellence and authoritative songwriting voice that makes the first song such a memorable track. His lyrical turns in this one are particularly strong and showcase a writer with impressive wisdom in someone so young. “Why Don’t You Stay” hits a bluesy note that Childers shows a later willingness to revisit and the use of horns in this song are particularly effective. He never wastes listeners time with the album’s thirteen song s and their focus plays an enormous role in their final impact on the audience.
“My Love of the Rain” could single-handedly carry this album. It’s stark evidence of his skills that Childers can take this deceptively simple arrangement and performance to such stratospheric heights. This sounds like the living beating heart of his music, but there’s no excitability to ruin his performance. Instead, Childers take it careful and slow, fixed on a goal of investing each line with almost religious importance. The effect is sensational. “No One Goes Dancing Anymore” is going to be a favorite for a lot of people. This invokes of the opener’s best attributes, namely Childers’ willingness to tell a story, and rolls out at just the right pace to hook listeners into its story. “Perfect Man” is a slightly rueful tune that, nevertheless, provides Childers’ audience with a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. He’s learned a helpful lesson early on about working in the ranks of popular song – your audience will let you brood over more serious fare, but you have to give them a little bit of the sweet to help chase the taste of sour. “Throwing Shade” is an excellent final example of that. It’s delightful how he gives this rueful lyric the blessing of an almost buoyant musical backing quite at odds with the lyrical temper. Paul Childers is full of surprises and there are sure more to come, but he’s also one of the brightest talents to debut in recent memory.