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Clip: New Paul Labrise CD

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  • Carl Z.
    Local songwriter Paul Labrise releases Star Delight BY AARON JENTZEN Letting the days go
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 13, 2007

      Local songwriter Paul Labrise releases Star Delight


      Letting the days go by: Paul Labrise
      By his own account, Paul Labrise has never given an interview until
      now. Which, given both his talent and his history in the local music
      scene, is mildly astonishing. Especially since talking with him is how
      I'd imagine a conversation with the protagonist of a Talking Heads
      song -- say, the guy in "Once in a Lifetime." A little folksy, a
      little out there -- unlike many musicians, Labrise is a perfect
      spokesman for his own songs.

      A lifelong Pittsburgher, the singer and guitarist had served stints in
      the well-regarded local '90s group Bitter Delores and played keyboards
      for Boxstep while developing his voice as a songwriter. His
      alt-country-tinged solo records, including 2002's Crawl Out of This,
      received enthusiastic reviews in the local media, but Labrise seemed
      content to keep a low profile -- if he thought about it much at all.

      "With all the bands I've been in and all the years of experience, I
      haven't done a lot of promoting," Labrise says, wryly. "I don't have a
      real plan or an agenda." But that might be changing. With his latest,
      Star Delight, he's streamlined his idiosyncratic vision toward
      something he feels is more accessible. "For that reason, I'm more
      interested in marketing it and trying to get it out there."

      Star Delight's 11 songs are performed mainly by Labrise, with help
      from his casual backing group The Trees: Jay Matula (drums), Megan
      Williams (violin, vocals), Justin Brown (bass) and Vince Camut (pedal
      steel). Under Labrise's reedy, Dylanesque voice and smooth arch-top
      guitar, the band builds a reverberating chiaroscuro of pronounced
      outlines and deep shadows, alt-country twang and big-city heartache.
      Some of Star Delight's sonic luster is the work of old friend Jay
      Valentich of the Pleasure Technicians, who added polish and depth to
      the ProTools tracks Labrise recorded himself at home.

      It's an impressionistic approach that serves Labrise's open-ended
      lyrics. "I feel like the imagery I'm putting forth are the times that
      you think about when you're waiting for the bus -- the idle time, the
      in-between moments," he says. "When you realize something you have to
      do, or have to make a decision, or when you're, you know, just being."

      "I'm not much of a storyteller," he adds. "You can just let the melody
      and the words that are associated with that melody, and all the music
      behind it, just create a mood. And you're most likely gonna end up in
      the same place as if you sat down with the lyrics in front of you and
      thought, 'what's going on in this song here?'"

      Labrise's penchant for humble, concrete images over abstraction and
      explication gives his songs a bit of a William Carlos Williams feel,
      if that poet had forsaken Patterson for Pittsburgh, a stethoscope for
      a six-string. (And like Williams, Labrise seems quite content to
      pursue his art alongside the pleasures of a profession and home life:
      He works for the Art Institute while taking Web design courses -- "the
      only thing that's kept my interest, I'm really into it" -- and, with
      his wife, recently purchased a home in the West End.)

      On one of the album's highlights, "Vanishing People," a Celtic guitar
      motif folds into a tonality reminiscent of the Velvet Underground's
      "Pale Blue Eyes," as Labrise sings of "A quiet night, everyday faces,
      holding out to a burning light / Muted sky, vanishing people, dancing
      in and out of sight." By the end of the song, those faces vanish into
      the bright light, but why, we'll never know. Even Labrise is unsure.

      "It could be that they're going to sleep," he suggests. "Or changing.
      Or they're waking up. Or it could mean, like, a nuclear war. I don't
      want to sing necessarily about nuclear war -- what I'm trying to say
      is not in that line. ... It's about change, I suppose." He pauses. "It
      is partially about death, but it's more about living. If you listen to
      the words, I say exactly what I want to say."

      Paul Labrise and The Trees CD Release with Slim Forsythe & The Park
      Lane Drifters. 9 p.m. Thu., April 19. Thunderbird Café, 4023 Butler
      St., Lawrenceville. 412-682-0177 or www.thunderbirdcafe.net
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