It’s fascinating how an artist who has been around for a while heaves to on your horizon even though you’ve been oblivious to their existence. As I recall, Paul M Cox emailed us to ask if we’d like to hear his new album, Sunset Over Stillwater. Naturally we eagerly accepted his invitation. Paul has been lead vocalist with a number of bands in the south midlands but now is working solo or supported by Graham Fieldhouse and Simon Alexander, two of the musicians who appear on the album.
Paul’s sound is based on multiple guitars – there is a lot of jangly 12-string underpinning the songs – but he also plays mandolin, keyboards and percussion. Add to that an eclectic range of styles and material and you have an album that holds your attention right to the end. The opener, ‘Silver And Gold’, is melodic Americana shading into rock as the ending builds up. ‘Take Hold My Hand’ and the title track are songs of escape and being able to live your own way.
The first real, and enjoyable, surprise comes with ‘Classical Jazz’. You see that title and you know what to expect. But you’d be wrong. It starts out that way but quickly morphs into a rags to riches story of a girl who we first hear of as “she came out smiling from the Troubadour”. Lyrically, it puts me in mind of early Al Stewart and I couldn’t help picturing Sandy Denny as the heroine although her real story bears no similarity to the song. Paul decorates the track with mandolin and slide guitar. It’s a gem. In contrast, ‘Molly’ is the story of a musician for whom the big time never happened. I really believe that Paul is writing about real people and places.
‘Blackbird’ begins with solo acoustic guitar and is metaphorically a song of lost love (I think). ‘Edge Of The World’ is a big ballad with Simon on slide guitar and is a sort of companion piece to ‘Take Hold My Hold’ and, again, it’s about taking your chances when they are presented. ‘Too Close To The Sun’ is, once more, about trying to live the way you want but told from the perspective of migrants. At least that’s what I hear but Paul’s writing is so densely packed that I could be missing his meaning. ‘Utopia’ takes us back to the setting of ‘Silver And Gold’ and the protagonist is, as ever, someone who forged his own path. Suddenly, Utah Phillips sprang to mind. Finally, ‘Caroline’s Dreams’ provides a big finish to the album with Graham Fieldhouse’s electric guitar clearing the route.
I’ve enjoyed Sunset Over Stillwater although it isn’t quite the record I was expecting. I think it will take me a while to fathom its depths.
Artist’s website: www.paulmcox.com
‘Silver And Gold’ – official video: