CD Reviews: Paul K and the Prayers, 5.19.1999

CD Reviews: Paul K and the Prayers, 5.19.1999

Alias Records

Paul K’s formidable singing and songwriting is almost legendary in these parts, and rightfully so. His rock ‘n roll elegance is inimitable, sincerity of expression in sober homilies and enigmatic ambiance. With more than fifteen albums in about fifteen years, Paul K has consistently offered a unique glimpse of his dark and brooding world. Saratoga is another of his richly textured works that feeds on anguish and desolation, yet manages to produce a smile on the listener’s face.

The songs on Saratoga are well written and well mixed, with a smooth production that allows the songs to breathe. “Airport Road” is a stirring track, often rising to crescendos of reckless abandon while “The Judge” is part rockabilly foot-stomper, part gospel hand-clapper. With a blatant country feel, “You Took It Too Far” is a sweeping and graceful tale of dark persuasions. A cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Harm’s Swift Way” is also particularly moving and well performed.

The 14 tracks, including one hidden track, show strong musicianship. Willie Eames’ guitar work is powerful, able to creep into a song and drag you away, weeping. Tim Welch’s percussion is, as always, first rate. However, his voice is sorely missed on the record, especially on “1992.” Bass player Smith Donaldson and keyboardist Thom Henry offer fine performances. David Olney’s harmonica work is also top notch.

Saratoga proves itself a fine record that can take you from despair to wander in an instant, a lingering account of Paul K’s pensive world. -Chris Webb