The Shelly Street Anthems
Paul Luc has crafted what is easily one of the best local singer-songwriter albums so far this year, and the quality of his material and musicianship is evident right from the jangly electric guitar chords that open The Shelly Street Anthems. Like Van Morrison, Luc inhabits the intersection of rootsy folk, pop and slick R&B, melding and crisscrossing between those genres with his distinctive breathy yet raspy tenor.
And Luc's melismatic voice really is the selling point here, which is kinda strange, in that I like it even though it reminds me of people I can't stand: David Gray; that Maroon 5 guy; James Blunt. Yes, I said James Blunt, and Luc takes quite a gamble with that unholy association by titling one of his own songs "Beautiful" (though Luc's is slick jazz-funk more reminiscent of early Steely Dan).
As a musician, Luc's material ranges from the moody funk of "Down to You" to acoustic ballads like "Nothing At All," showing some range while never quite breaking above Counting Crows-level moderate rock. As a lyricist, he can come across as kaleidoscopic or rambling, depending on your preferences. Here's a good example of his jumpy imagery: "From the tenement halls to the mansion walls / there's water lifting up the old floor tiles / the polite wind chime to the jump-rope vine / that meanders through the city's aisles." Sorta works, sorta doesn't.
Throughout the album's 10 songs, Luc's vocals and rippling guitar are anchored by Jake Horwat's bass, Kevin Mulcahy's drums and John "Whitey" Rokosz's piano and organ. Guest musicians provide the pedal steel lament on "Shores" and the cinematic strings that buoy many of the songs. Like fellow local songwriter Jon Check, Paul Luc's gentle alt-pop is ideal for the WYEP format, able to capture the imagination of all-grown-up suburbanites, while its emotional resonance and musical complexity give it just enough of a legit edge.
Paul Luc performs at "Capture Pittsburgh." 7 p.m. Sat., July 28. Creative Treehouse, 517 Lincoln Ave, 2nd Floor, Bellevue. $3. 724-910-9947 or http://creativetreehousepgh.com