A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark Horn
Nestled in California's gold rush country is a nugget of songwriting treasure more precious than any mere metal dug from the ground. Paula Joy Welter started songwriting just three short years ago - go figure. Some people are just quick learners.
Morning Light is the debut CD for this talented performer. I have never heard such a mature and high quality effort right out of the shout. An album of this caliber does not occur by mistake. Welter surrounded herself with the best in the business. The album's producer, Nina Gerber is known to the folk community for her phenomenal studio work, on both sides of the glass. One of the busiest people around, Gerber knows exactly how to arrange each song; who to use and how to use them. Kim Scanlon is known as one of the finest vocalists on the west coast. Whether coaching or singing backup Scanlon raises the vocal standard on every project in which she participates. The backup performers read like the Who's Who of folk music: Cary Black, Norton Buffalo, Nina Gerber, Laurie Lewis, John Reischman, and Sally Van Meter and that's not half of the talent making appearances.
Is it coincidence that Kim Scanlon appears on two of my three favorite albums of the year, while Gerber and Black grace all three? (The other two are "Life and Art" by Tracy Spring and "The Heart of the Flower" by Bob Franke.) It just goes to show how important it is to surround yourself with the best musicians possible.
Welter's ballads paint pictures. Some of her pictures appear as needlepoint samplers, others as bright watercolors. Welter is at her best when chronicling the moments of our lives. Whether family or love, she sets her brush to the task of showing us our lives in rich and sympathetic textures.
"Calling You Home" explores the thin line between life and death, cheating the devil, and the power of love. Our childhood is a place of fantasy and imagination. "Long Ago" is a magic carpet ride back to those days of carefree flights into worlds of wonder we inhabited in our years of innocence.
Paula Joy colors with life and light bringing familiar scenes back to mind. A realistic tone painter and storyteller whose palette is bright and brush strokes precise. No impressionist, she chooses small moments and fills in each picture with skill and care. The closing cut, "A Promise on the Breeze" has the peace and grace of a misty Sunday morning in Ocean City.
Morning Light is a touching album that works because everything fits together so well. Welter's themes were so familiar, the treatment sets so easily on my ears that before I knew it, the last cut was ending and I found myself pressing play again. You will probably find yourself doing the same. Go ahead, it's cold and gray outside, treat yourself to another listen.