Reviewed by Gregory Keer
The music of folk singer-songwriter Ellis Paul is frequently in our lives, especially because, whenever my family hops in the car for highway journeys, my youngest requests “Road Trip” from the 2008 The Dragonfly Races album. Although I love that tune, it was time for some new Paul music, which is why The Hero in You is such an appreciated addition to our vehicular playlist.
On this new recording, Paul digs deep into America’s past to enlighten children about some of our nation’s greatest contributors to culture, civil rights, science, and lots more. Paul’s full-bodied vocals and poetic turns of phrase warm up the often cold, hard facts of history in person-titled tunes about intrepid female journalist “Nellie Bly,” African-American ice cream innovator “Augustus Jackson,” Native American icon “Chief Joseph,” baseball color-barrier breaker “Jackie Robinson,” and late-blooming painter “Georgia O’Keefe,” among others. While most of the music rides the folk-sound train, the New England based performer varies things up with a spoken-word detour for “Thomas Edison” (about the prolific inventor) and a smooth hip-hop rap on “Martha Graham” (celebrating the brilliant choreographer).
All this singing of U.S. heroes’ praises comes from Paul’s feeling that our country needs to take more pride in its unique leaders. At the same time, Paul – who pays homage to one of his musical inspirations on “Woody Guthrie, Working May” – tells his young listeners that each of us is capable of great things, as suggested by the title track.
Pair this album with The Deedle Deedle Dees’ equally educational Strange Dees, Indeed. and your car stereo will turn into quite the rolling edu-tainment system.
www.ellispaul.com – $15 (CD) – Ages 2 to 11