Christopher Paul Stelling is quite the song writing juggernaut in his emotionally charged debut album Songs of Praise & Scorn. For the past three years, the Northeastern songwriter has played countless live performances at a plethora of venues. But with a beginning like this, one can understand the grace and patience it takes, when making a debut. Stelling makes such a grand exquisite debut with this album borrowing themes deep from rich Southern roots and American country storytelling.
Right from the start, with his hit single “Mourning Train to Memphis,” the opening seconds are introduced to his expertly fast paced guitar picking which then segues into a folk medley, accompanied by a powerful violin solo. The story describes ones own journey to see someone dying of cancer. Itʻs a powerful opener, and Stelling immediately pierces the heart with his strong vocals and howls illustrating such journey. As the record progresses, he slows down the pace. “Solar Flares” and “Flawless Executioner” are lighter tracks which showcase a gentler, softer guitar strumming. “Never Been There” is five minute ode that laments on dark times and regretful dreams. Stelling plays dual role as both the character of the track and narrator, navigating with a forceful tone.
He follows the track with “The Ocean Stole My Love Away,” a strikingly poignant lullaby of love lost. He is once again accompanied by the billowing sound of the lonesome violin. In both “Strange Darkness” and “Ghost Ship,” Stelling stealthy emulates his signature howls, illustrating a fierce singer reaching the depths of his soul fighting back all the anguish and scorn. That is how the second part feels, but Stelling ends with an arousing acoustic track, “King is Dead,” which is all about a brand new day, and great praise all together.
Recorded mostly live during this past summer, all above a functioning funeral home in Louisville, KY, the album boasts fine guest appearances by Julia Christgau (who provides backing vocals) and Cheyenne Marie Mize (violin accompaniment). You can easily sense their presence featured throughout the 10 tracks. With Songs of Praise & Scorn, Stelling captures the true essence of American folklore and proves with this album, that he is quite the force of nature this music industry needs.
Songs of Praise & Scorn is available now via Brooklyn imprint Mecca Lecca Recording Co., iTunes, Amazon, and your local record store.
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