REVIEW: The PaperBoys -- Late as Usual

Back in 1994 Vancouver, BC, Canada highly danceable celtic soft rockers The Paperboys released their debut CD _Late as Usual_, co-produced by Colin Nairne (of Barney Bentall & the Legendary Hearts) and Geoff Kelly (of Spirit of the West).

Brief Overview

There are three instrumental medleys and eight original tunes, one Cajun influenced, most celtic tinged, much softer/cleaner sounding than many "celtic rock" attempts --- the celtic instruments are not drowned out by the bass/drums, there is little electric guitar, but lead and harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, bodhran, accordion, piano/keys, percussion, drums, fiddle, bass, banjo, flute, whistles, harp, guest cello, of course not all on the same track. The production is very good but they can be even better live.

They do a funked up medley of Cooley's Reel with a tune called Tyrol Mountain Hop that fiddler Moritz wrote while travelling through Austria, that has some very good whistle and fiddle interaction, it gets the sound of those horses. Another medley has Boys of the Mill followed by a tune called Whiskey in the Tea that whistler/harpist/etc Neil wrote on a ferry. Another medley entitled Indian Summer has two jigs written by Tom to celebrate Vancouver's fall, and an arrangement of Drowsy Maggie (reel).

Of the non-instrumentals, the tunes "Devil Away" and "Forest of Blue" are the most folklike, "She Said" is a danceable pop tune but with some tasteful fiddle/etc, "In Love for Now" is a honey-dripping Gen-X love song, "January", "Rocking Chair" are upbeat soft pop tunes with some celtic tinges. "Nowhere But Up" is a bit mellower, but has a jewel of brightness in the darkness. "Come Tella Me" has some Cajun influences.

From the liner notes, The Paperboys are:

    Tom Landa:     lead vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, 
                     backing vocals, bodhran, accordion, piano, 
                     keyboards, percussion, audience agitation
    Moritz Behm:   fiddle, mandolin, percussion, backing vocals
    Cam Salay:     electric bass, 5 string banjo, backing vocals
    Neil Burnett:  flute, penny whistles, celtic harp, accordion,
                     percussion, backing vocals
    Paul Lawton:   drums, percussion, backing vocals

(This was the lineup when the recording was made.)

Detailed track comments, written while listening

  1. She Said. This is a great song, with a powerful rhythm section, burning fiddle, soaring vocals and harmony vocals, some mandolin, Hammond organ. The lyrics are simple but uplifting, suitable for an audience sing-along. It is strong, original, danceable pop tune with celtic tinges. The only thing I would change would be to put the funny phone bit at the start as a separate short track, to make life more convenient for DJs and radio programmers. But it sure is a good wakeup song!
  2. Cooley's Reel/Tyrol Mountain Hop. Now you may say that Cooley's Reel has been done to death, but this is a fresh new arrangement, followed by a tune Moritz composed while travelling through Austria. It starts out slightly eerie (I would prefer it to start out calm, then get eerie, then funky.) but moves to strong, funky rhythms, underlying the celtic instruments but not swamping them out. The rhythms feel more like hip checks than military hits. The mix of whistles/fiddle soars, and is layered to get a pipelike sound, crying like the dying horses of Branwen in celtic mythology. But this is contrasted with swinging segments, and it ends positively, although with maybe a bit of a whimper, I would like to see a drum note ending. Still, a great instrumental track, good for testing dancers young and old.

    In Love For Now. At first this grated on me a bit, but after more listens in a different mood, it has grown on me. It is a honey-dripping Generation-X love song, about growing closer by the flickering light of the tube, about "stealing the blankets, drinking the last of the milk, and leaving the toilet seat up (liner notes)". There is a bit of e-guitar on here by guest Colin Nairne, but it is kept unobtrusive except for a solo, not damping the words. It is a soft waltz pop tune, with some celtic touches (mandolin/accordion).

    Whiskey in the Tea. This is an instrumental medley of Boys in the Mill (learned from a Matt Molloy record) and Whiskey in the Tea, composed by Neil on the ferry the Queen of Galiano, with tea, Scotch and seagulls. It starts with a-guitar and whistle, and some tasteful bass. On the whistle, Neil gets lots of soaring runs and rolls, then Moritz comes in on the fiddle, but the fiddle doesn't do all the grace notes, just backs up the whistle. The second portion gets the sound of the sea, rolling of waves, more rolling effect of the whiskey, all in one: (hey seagull, come have a drop, stay a little while, feel the boat rock [me]). Towards the end it gets even faster, works into a sweaty dancing tune with drums, more bass, but the whistle still cutting through! Again it ends on a whistle note, not a drum note.

  3. January. This is another danceable pop song, good rhythms, some drums, lots of fiddle, some Hammond organ, whistles, more. Early on there are some Stevie Ray Vaughan like fiddle solos by Moritz. There are some more smooth/fresh/clean vocals by Tom. Later the fiddle moves over for a whistle solo, then a banjo solo, all (and voice) not overpowered by the rhythm section but rooted in it.
  4. Come Tella Me. On this track there is some Cajun influenced accordion, some banjo, and again a strong but not overpowering rhythm section. It is highly danceable, and has simple but catchy lyrics. Towards the end the fiddle duels with the accordion, or I guess, dances with the accordion.
  5. Rocking Chair. This starts as a slow, sad ballad, in memory of Tom's grandmother, who (I think) suffered from Alzheimer's, and the losing of connection with one reality as another beckons. The lead vocals are positive, the backing vocals demonstrate a more negative viewpoint, but the lead vocals win out. There is some great whistle and mandolin work (although the mandolin seems slightly less prominent than when they do this live). The song moves from the slow and sad, and makes you dance in joy that the dead really are not, but have found new freedom in new form.
  6. Forest of Blue. This is a traditional style folk ballad [perhaps inspired by Labatt's Blue? :-) ], written by Cam, beginning with some harp that evokes a misty forest, with some mystic story lyrics inspired by a dream. It describes of being captivated, in a "forest of blue, in the pale moonlight" by a young nymph with golden hair and blue eyes. The harp at the start moves to the banjo line, then to a fiddle line, then that fades and the Harp finishes, as it began. [I wonder if I'm the only one who gets the beery references?]
  7. Indian Summer. This is 2 jigs written by Tom to celebrate the fabulous Vancouver fall, followed by a reel, Drowsy Maggie, [for some fire in the winter?]. It starts with a mix of guitar and fiddle and harp, a bit slower, then goes into overdrive to test the dancers, with added bass, drums and banjo. The fiddle gets some nice squeaky vibrato of some bits. Then it moves into the reel, very fast, cardiovascular workout for all ages, with all the instruments getting in on the act. This is very fiery overall. [I would even add some pipes at the end, or at least a good drone, to take the root even deeper, though.]
  8. Nowhere But Up. This is a ballad, more for listening to alone, slightly depressing at first, but gets better, this is one of those you can tune to when down and then use to rise up. It gets faster and more positive later, with good whistle, strong rhythm section, a danceable pace but slower than the previous test of the dancer's mettle.
  9. Devil Away. Of the non-instrumentals, (on first listen) this and She Said are my current favourites on the album. My only complaint is that it should not end the album, but instead be followed by perhaps a "hidden track" or "extended remix" of She Said, for a positive answer to the uncertain strength of Devil Away. Devil Away is dedicated against domestic violence, and tears at the heartstrings, with some quiet guest cello and slow fiddle setting the mood. It starts with dark, slow strains, then the passionate voice cuts in. It could be a close home waltz tune, to keep each other safe and warm to. It has deep moodiness, but a spark of brightness, of regrowth, within.

Overall I am very happy with the production, the CD catches much of their live energy, and the rhythm section and guitar does not swamp out the celtic instruments but take them to a new level, likely to appeal to young and old. With people like Ashley MacIsaac already having broken the US market, these guys seem destined for stardom.

Now here are some tour dates and ordering info, typed from their last mailing to the paper mailing list (which I am on):

To order the CD write to Stomp Productions, 158--1896 W. Broadway, Vancouver, BC, V6J 1Y9 with a cheque or money order of $14 Canadian or $12 US per CD, including shipping and handling and tax where applicable (add $1 for a bumper sticker), payable to Tom Landa. Let them know if you want to be on their paper mailing list, which I am typing this info from. Also the CD may be available from A&B Sound [(800) 663 0596] and Black Swan Records [(604) 734 2828].

The CD also says that for Paperboys information and bookings (media, agents, distributors, labels, venues, festivals), contact their manager at Stomp Productions (604) 738-4782.

Other celtic musicians reading should know that Tom runs the Vancouver Celtic Festival, a spring (May?) nightclub festival each year and it would be an idea to send him promo kits as well as to those such as Steve Edge (Rogue Folk Club), the Vancouver Folk Music Festival office, Celtic Connection newspaper and perhaps some clubs, if you are planning a trip to Vancouver.

I think The Paperboys have a web page at The Paperboys. They have also released two more CDs: Molinos and Postcards and both are quite good. I may review them later in separate files.