Which came first, the train or the fool? Well according to anthropologists, fools predated trains by some 200,000 years, give or take a millennia or two. Yet, somehow, far fetched as this dis-tonic duo seems, they do go quite well together, especially when sung about by Paul Wilson (www.soundclick.com/pwmusic1) as on his latest CD aptly titled Trains and Fools.
Now this CD is not your run-of-the-mill easy listening soundtrack, and it’s not for the faint of heart, either. For beginners, Paul’s voice is as rough as Tom Waits singing your favorite Captain Beefheart song (actually, does anyone really have a favorite Captain Beefheart song?), or possibly as rough as a cat’s tongue on a baby’s bottom, or maybe even as rough as getting thrown face first off a caboose onto the rocks between the rails. If that don’t shiver your timbers, then hang on as this CD explodes full force into pure hetero-heartbreak, including guns, dogs, and sixteen gallon alligator tears. Put that all together and you got Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the post bender D.T.’s, you got Marilyn Manson roller skating backwards through a china shop, and you got Elvis on the bathroom floor. But more than that, you got Paul Wilson at his finest.
So much for flattery, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Beyond his distinctive voice, Paul can really write a song. Whether he’s talking about the heartbreak of being left behind like on track two, Remedy, where I saw your wedding ring lying on the dresser where I knew it shouldn’t be, or he’s reality checking as on track eight, Pedestrian Crossing, about how it feels like you’re stomping a hole in a mud puddle the way you’re walking all over me, Paul deftly articulates the often masochistic-sadistic nature of human relationships. Yet at times he can be just as stunningly introspective about the solitude of heartache as on track nine, October Grey, where no matter how I twist the pillow it just won’t fit my head. And when you least expect it, like the ting of a tuning fork, Paul captures with inspirational clarity that defining moment of sorrow as on track 11, All Those Years, when you’re looking through the bottom of a bottle filled with empty dreams. Now there’s penmanship for the drunken down hearted.
Musically, this is a also a romp through the roaster, as Paul’s guitar style gets heavier and hotter with each song. Track six, Restless, deserves particular praise as classic American rhythm and blues, with all the force and restlessness of Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton (1926 – 1984) singing Everything Gonna Be Alright with the Muddy Waters Blues Band (1966, Arhoolie). And then there’s my favorite of all, track twelve, Let Two Wrongs Make A Right, where Paul’s gruff vocals are beautifully interwoven with Allison Lockhart’s sumptuously melodic voice. It’s a kinda Beauty and The Beast, auditory style, thing.
So don’t be no fool. Hustle on down to the corner bar and hop onto your favorite bar stool. Yeah, you know, the one with the seat belt on it. Then plug into Trains and Fools and let the Miller drafts and them big ol’ alligator tears flow. Paul Wilson just rode the rails into town.