Paul Quarrington – The Songs

Cordova Bay Records

Those of us who knew and loved Paul Quarrington — and we are many — understood certain things about him only through his work. That’s where he placed the brightest and darkest parts of himself injecting tenderness into his ribald wayward characters making us laugh and love them turning their broken pieces into a mosaic. Quarrington made us feel we could still be beautiful if broken. That was his charm and it’s alive and well in these songs.

The Songs is a deeply personal solo album mostly written and recorded in the months following Paul’s diagnosis of stage four lung cancer in May 2009. There wasn’t time to write another novel and besides he’d already won his literary accolades. Musically he still had something to say something to prove and what better way to say “Fuck Cancer” than to sing your heart out?

And on The Songs his voice sounds better than ever — it’s no-holds-barred. His lyrics are quintessential Quarrington alternating between the raunchy and the romantic. Musically rooted in folk and blues the album has huge emotional range moving from string-swollen ballads (“All The Stars”) to lonesome acoustic numbers (“Hey Hollywood”) to rollicking drum-driven fishing yarn (“Big Ol’ Bass”). Through the (mis)adventures of a God-fearing porn star a twice-divorced car salesman and an end-is-near evangelist Quarrington wrestled with questions of celestial navigation while writing letters to loved ones saying in song the things he had trouble saying in life.

There is plenty of laughter here — and tears — but it’s a comfort for those who love and miss his voice and a revelation for those who never knew him. These songs are some of his finest work but let’s not fool ourselves. He was just getting started.