Songs Of Praise And Scorn (due out Feb. 21, 2012) is the debut album of zero-to-hero success story Christopher Paul Stelling. Having graduated from playing for fans on the platforms of New York City subways, the majority of Stelling’s inaugural work was recorded above an active funeral home in Louisville, KY.
The opener and first single off the disc, “Morning Train To Memphs,” begins by shoving Stelling’s fingerpicking skills in your face—and rightfully so! The blistering speeds at which he busts out those licks is impressive to say the least, and clearly not just for show, as they’re supported by his beautiful vocals. The album also features backing vocals from one Julia Christgau and the violin stylings of Cheyenne Marie Mize who add immense depth to songs like “Solar Flares.”
Along with his great voice comes great storytelling ability, most notably on “The Ocean Stole My Love Away.” Stelling takes the heavily explored topic of long lost love and takes it to another level with all the feeling he puts into his words and the picture he paints with the guitar. He continues, telling of the dethroning and brutal destruction of the King Of The Sea in “Poor Leviathan.” It almost makes you want to sympathize with the terrifying monster.
The standout track of the disc is easily “Ghost Ship.” It highlights everything that makes the album successful: Clean, fast, acoustic guitar, beautiful dueling vocals and a somber violin solo worthy of praise from that Devil that went down to Georgia. The balance between beautifully crafted ballads and fast-paced jams on Songs Of Praise And Scorn is perfect, and his passion hogs the spotlight throughout. He’s gone from the streets to the spotlight, from performing on subway platforms to recording in funeral homes and almost everywhere in between. I can only imagine what’s next.