Brennan Coffee House Music series Ellis Paul comes to JC

One theory of sound suggests that if you strum a guitar on ground floor in the Brennan Court House, the sound will reverberate forever throughout that historic Jersey City landmark on Newark Avenue.

The Court House’s rotunda area sits at the bottom of a tall dome four stories high and a parade of marble columns that the Ancient Greeks would have been at home with.

Over the last year, this theory of music has been tested again and again, with the Brennan Coffee House Music Series bringing in some of the best folk music talent available.

Ellis Paul

On Jan. 20, Ellis Paul, winner of 13 Boston Music Awards, will carry on the tradition by bringing tunes from his new CD, “American Jukebox Fables”, to the series. Paul is considered the architect of the Boston school of songwriting, combining folk with pop styles that began the folk revival in the 1990s.

Since 1990, Paul has released 10 CDs, many of which explore the roots and possibilities of modern folk music, and the roots from legendary Woody Guthrie. Paul appeared in the all-star tribute tour to Guthrie in recent years. As with Bob Dylan nearly 30 years earlier, Ellis fell under the spell of Woody Guthrie’s music, calling it the starting point for his own career.

Yet most critics claim that Ellis is original, writing like no one else and sounding like no other performer. Despite growing up in northern Maine, Paul has become a voice of urban folk music, with a highly introspective style that is also very accessible and polished.

Since becoming a legend of his own right on the Boston folk music scene, Paul has managed to spread his wings. His music was played on TV shows like Ed and MTV’s Real World. His recordings have also appeared in several Farrelly Brothers films including Me, Myself, & Irene staring Jim Carrey.

Paul arrives in Hudson County on the heals of his latest release, “American Jukebox Fables”, which is his first release since 2002 and is said to incorporate fuller pop sound into his music.

“We were trying to do something contemporary with the sort of old style approach to writing and subject matter,” Paul said in talking about this CD. “I wanted to write a folk/country record. So there are songs about trains and jukeboxes and bars and pickup trucks. There was a simplified approach to writing, but I didn’t want to produce it that way. I wanted it to be produced like a folk/rock record with some pop elements.”

The Coffee House series

The court house turned coffee house is located at 583 Newark Ave., two blocks from The Journal Square PATH station. The Brennan Coffee House Music Series is a monthly venue held the first Friday of the month starting about 7:30 p.m. County Executive Tom DeGise who is the creative mind behind the series called it “a loose and comfortable” venue where people can catch some of the better folk music acts available in the nation for the modest fee of $10.

William La Rosa, director of County County’s Cultural and Heritage Affairs said he hoped the venue would become some place music lovers would gravitate towards, and said the after-hours use of the public building means that parking is not a problem.

The Brennan Coffee House Music Series is once a month and takes place in the courthouse located at 583 Newark Ave. in Jersey City.


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