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Enjoy some Ellis Paul story-songs

The veteran troubadour returns to Passim on August 13.

Ali Hasbach

A career as a singer-songwriter – consisting of constant travel and a recorded résumé of 20 albums – was probably not at the top of the list of things to do with his life when Ellis Paul was growing up in the small town of Fort Kent, Maine.

Music was definitely involved in his childhood; he started playing trumpet in the third grade, and he sang in the school choir. But sports eventually took precedence; he got into running and won a track scholarship to Boston College. But a knee injury in his junior year set him on a different and unexpected course.


While he was recovering from surgery and taking a year off from running, his girlfriend’s sister loaned him her classical guitar. You can figure out what happened next. In an interview I did with him a few years ago, he summed it up in five words: “I ended up diving in.”

Soon he was teaching himself to play guitar, learning to play piano, taking a stab at writing songs (many of which told stories), and figuring out how to best incorporate his voice in it all. “I’m blessed with a high voice,” he said in that interview. “Not many guys can sing as high as I can.”

Settled in Boston, Paul joined the open mic circuit, regularly performing throughout the 1990s at the Nameless Coffeehouse, O’Brien’s, and the Old Vienna Coffee House.

Since then and right up through today, there have been myriad accomplishments. Among them: recording on the Philo and Rounder labels, as well as his own Black Wolf Records; numerous guest spots at Fenway Park to sing the National Anthem; 15 Boston Music Awards; and songs appearing on the soundtracks of the Farrelly Brothers films “Shallow Hal,” “Me, Myself, & Irene,” and “Hall Pass.” He’s also become a regular at the Newport Folk Festival and has played at Carnegie Hall.


For his return to Passim, Paul’s set list will have selections from his 2019 release “The Storyteller’s Suitcase” and, taking into consideration what’s on his 2021 pandemic-induced cover album, “Ellis Paul’s Traveling Medicine Show, Vol. 1,” he could also do anything from “If I Only Had a Brain” to “Day Tripper.” Longtime fans know that an Ellis Paul concert will often include a surprise or two: some brand new songs that he’s still trying out.

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