PITTSBURGH IN TUNE
North Carolina singer/songwriter Paul Edelman has an absolute gem on his hands in latest album “Stranger Things & Truer Words.” It’s a terrific 12-track collection of Americana/folk tunes that showcase Edelman’s first-rate songwriting chops.
“I find my inspiration from the darker side of human nature,” explains Edelman, a past winner of the 2009 Flat Rock Music Festival songwriting competition. “I like to shine a flashlight into the crevices of ourselves, pull scabs off, then the redemption lies in the shared experience of the song.”
Twangy keeper “The Highway Doesn’t Know” launches the 44-minute slab in fine fashion, and Edelman later soars on standouts “Chase It Down,” “Friend You Need,” “Campfire Song,” “Ballad of Lizzie Mainford,” “Daddy Says” and “Annie Let’s Roll” — but truth be told, there really isn’t a misstep to be found anywhere on the album. Do yourself a favor and track down a copy of “Stranger Things & Truer Words.” You won’t regret it. (Jeffrey Sisk)
COLUMBIA FREE TIMES
Since moving to Asheville, N.C., five years ago from his native Philadelphia, Paul Edelman, who performs in various configurations as The Jangling Sparrow, has been happy — which has become a big worry when it comes to his music.
“I get my inspiration from the darker side of human nature, so I was concerned a happy life would destroy my writing,” Edelman says. “I spent a few years pushing that kind of progress in my life off; I truly believe that happiness comes not from ignoring scary thoughts, however, but facing them.
With a wife and a teenage stepdaughter who’s a model student, Edelman the musician might have cause for concern, but he’s not really a confessional songwriter. He’s more a detached storyteller, observing his surroundings and mining them for content without making it all about him.
“I need to close off from the family dynamic when I’m in the process of writing songs,” he explains, “I’m like Jack in The Shining about getting interrupted when I’m in the writing mode.”
That single-minded focus bears fruit on Stranger Things and Truer Words, Edelman’s latest album, one that he is pushing out for a wider national release come August. With a drawl like Steve Forbert and a weariness worthy of Ryan Adams, songs such as “The Highway Doesn’t Know” have a John Prine-like eye for detail. “Campfire Song” sounds much like a real fireside rumination written beside a slowly dying bed of coals. “Trouble is a Stray” begins like a portentous Dylan outtake from the Freewheelin’ era, but Edelman swears no particular allegiance to Bob or any other musical iconoclast.
“My influences from any big-name artists are more visceral,” he claims, “I consider Dylan like every other songwriter — he wrote brilliant songs for the time he wrote them in and capitalized on what was going on musically. I respect his career like I do Picasso’s, or Clint Eastwood’s; they all have prolific and long runs and have ignored their critics.”
One of the more interesting influences on the new album came from a serendipitous neighbor.
“This guy moved in upstairs from me,” Edelman recalls, “a super nice guy with white hair and a ponytail who told me he was playing piano at a resort in the mountains. He wanted to come over and jam and I kept blowing him off thinking I wouldn’t really be into what he was doing — until the day he brought his laptop with him, so he could show me a clip of his last show. It was him playing on The Tonight Show with Mavis Staples.”
That upstairs neighbor turned out to be keyboardist Steve Fordham, who spent years in Staples’ backing ensemble and played all the piano and organ parts on Edelman’s new album. Fordham contributes to Stranger Things’ fuller, more band-like atmosphere, injecting a little bit of soul into Edelman’s otherwise standard singer-songwriter stance.
The singer’s current live setup features just him and a keyboard player — not Fordham, who now resides in Colorado — though he has done everything from solo shows to fronting a three- or four-piece band. But however he performs, Edelman is happy with where he’s at.
“It’s beautiful here,” he says of his mountain home. “I can come home from a bad day at work, see the Smoky Mountains over the hill and think, ‘Oh, yeah, I live here,’ and be alright.”
When long-time Philly-based country folkster Paul Edelman decided the time had come to leave the Keystone State, he set his sights on the singer-songwriter capital of the Carolinas, Asheville, N.C.
And rightfully so. The beautiful mountain town is home to roots rockers, bluegrassers, and the disciples of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Townes Van Zandt.
“I needed to be in an environment more conducive to my goals,” Edelman says. “That’s one of the things so attractive about Asheville, so many players who’ve really dove in to full-time musicianship and everything that means.”
For years, Edelman has played and toured as the Jangling Sparrows, but he has slowly begun to give up that moniker. Edelman is a self-proclaimed “rambling soul,” so it should shock no one that many of his songs are about the road. “I’ve always romanticized about traveling, and when I do, I like the crannies of a place, the parts of someplace that really help you understand what makes the people there tick,” Edelman says. “But I’m more a creature of balance. I have a home life and that helps me feel connected when I go out on the road.
Not your daddy’s St. Paddy’s show: Asheville’s Pick Your Switch at the Westville Pub
Sometimes there’s just no substitute for a loud rock ’n’ roll tune.
Asheville songwriter Paul Edelman, long known for twangy, driving Americana, tries on the rocker
persona for something a bit different, and he wears it well. Edelman and his three-piece band Pick
Your Switch (featuring Dave Baker on bass and vocal harmonies and Elzy Lindsey on drums) take
the stage at the Westville on Saturday for a St. Patrick’s Day show.
“It’s gonna be a fun night,” Edelman says. “We’re putting together a bunch of Irish drinking songs, a
lot of traditional tunes, one new original, and a couple of popular rock songs by Irish artists (will be
making their way onto the set list).”
Though there’s an air of celebration (it is St. Paddy’s day, after all), Edelman and company maintain
an excitement, too, over the new direction that the music is taking.
“It’s definitely a new sound,” Edelman says. “Kind of like Dick Dale, but with a more guttural, reverb-y,
harder-edged thing that’s happening, too. I’m really, really happy with the way a lot of the tunes are
coming together. We’re breaking a lot of ground with new people.”
Edelman remains a songwriter first and foremost, and this sensibility enables him to deliver the
goods, frontman-style. Things may get loud and raucous, but there’s always careful attention given to
melody and storytelling.
“I tell people that we’re like Bruce Springsteen meets AC-DC, or Tom Petty meets The Clash,”
Edelman says. “It’s definitely songwriter-driven, but with more of a big rock sound.”
The trio plans to release an album this summer, with the full intent of capturing the energy of one of
their live shows. A tour to promote the record is also in the works.
“We’re in the final stages of tracking the recording right now,” Edelman says. “We’ve been doing it all
ourselves, and I’ve been really impressed and surprised with the sounds we’re getting. Overall, we’re
trying to be as raw as we can be without sacrificing the songs.”
Edelman talks like a performer who is exactly where he wants to be, and loving every minute of it.
“I try to be open-ended about where things can go,” the singer says. “I want to play music. That’s my
goal. I just want to play.”
Wyane Bledsoe – knoxville.com
KNOXVILLE — Paul Edelman can point to the time that he knew how powerful music can be:
“I’m maybe 4, 5, everyone’s gathered in the living room, just hanging out and at some point everyone takes off to do something and I remember being left on the couch sitting by myself and (Bob Dylan’s) ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ was on the turntable. I had a visceral awareness that this song was much more involved than I could understand and there was stuff out there that was bigger than me and it was scary and creepy and exciting.”
Maybe it’s no surprise that Edelman, both as a solo artist and in his band Pick Your Switch, works hard at creating songs that affect audiences.
In a call from Asheville, N.C., where he is “living out of boxes” and house-sitting while he waits to move into a house with his fiancée, Edelman says the song is what’s most important.
“Everything I do is songwriter driven, I write it all the same way. I’m sitting on the couch with an acoustic guitar and sometimes I know I can perform it solo and people will have a complete picture of it. Other times I think, ‘No, this needs to be ferocious.'”
Edelman grew up in Philadelphia, where he worked in a series of groups. “There’s an amazing core of songwriters and performers there,” he says. While he says he had problems with the music scene as a whole, Edelman says the artists working there are “unbelievable.”
“Folk and bluegrass are actually huge up there. Down here, people grew up around it and I’ve noticed a lot of people who grew up in traditionally bluegrass towns make a point of breaking away from it. In Philly, everybody grew up with punk rock and classic rock and are now getting back to roots music.”
Edelman, in fact, played banjo in a bluegrass band in Philadelphia for four years. “My biggest strength was always in surrounding myself with the right people — good songwriters, people who knew how to get out there and get shows,” says Edelman. “I did well. I was (opening for) Neko Case and Robert Earl Keen and James McMurtry and Big Sandy and lots of super acts. It was cool because they’d call me. They’d say, ‘Hey, Scott Miller is coming to town. Do you want to open?'”
Still, he says, he always came back to roots rock for his musical comfort zone.
In 2005, Edelman started his own band, The Jangling Sparrows. Eventually, though, Edelman decided he’d done all he could do in Philadelphia and chose to move to Asheville, where he both worked solo and with the trio Pick Your Switch.
Edelman says he really feels like he’s just getting started with touring and developing a regional fan base, but he’s learned a lot about how to treat people in the business. “Sound guys have such a reputation for being grumpy, but I tip them whenever possible — $5, $10, sometimes $20 depending on how big the show is … You know what? They remember you.”
He also says perfection is not as important as other things — especially real emotion and making an effort. That’s something he appreciates in the music he listens to and it’s what he strives to make. Part of that quality is what he couldn’t quite his finger one when he heard Bob Dylan sing “It’s Alright Ma.”
“It comes down to ‘Do I believe you?’ That’s not genre specific.’ I actually kind of like Eminem. I believe he cares about what he’s writing about and it means something to him. And that’s kind of rare these days.”