Paul Baribeau - Grand Ledge (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Paul Baribeau

Grand Ledge (2007)


Paul Baribeau's self-titled debut remains one of my most pleasant blind purchases. I simply saw it in the Plan-It-X catalogue when making an order, and decided to risk my five dollars on the disc. I had not read anything about Baribeau at that point, nor had I heard one of his tracks. So, when my package arrived (along with an expired lottery ticket, a playing card and a personal note thanking me for putting my trust in the Gainesville postal system), I was pretty surprised at what I heard. The music was raw and passionate. I listened to a guy sing about what seemed to be every embarrassing feeling or fact about himself that he could remember. He did it with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and an oft-cracking voice. And though it should have worn thin quickly, it didn't. The disc still manages to get fairly frequent playtime from me.

So, needless to say, I had high hopes for the followup, Grand Ledge. And for the most part, I'm pleased to say that these expectations were met. The album is more cohesive and catchier than its predecessor, and it never falls flat. The album rarely slows down from its upbeat tempo, yet the tracks remain distinct, and never repetitive. It is, as clichéd as this is to say, a more mature and focused extension of his debut.

Baribeau's lyrics are also a continuation of his previous album. They are often heartbreaking and always honest, usually looking for the silver lining on any dark clouds that may come his way: "It's hard now / It feels like everything to slowed down. / There's so many places I wish I could be. / So many friends that I wish I could see / and I know I'm lucky."

Grand Ledge does have its drawbacks, though. The album is far too short for its own good, with only nine tracks and 18 minutes of music. It also doesn't do anything dramatically different than the self-titled, and misses out on some of its predecessor's uniqueness, such as the a capella track.

Even with those minor quibbles, Grand Ledge is one of my favourite releases from 2007, and had I listened to it when making my year-end list, it surely would have found itself a good spot. There may be no individual aspect of the disc that is overly impressive, yet the sum of this one is certainly greater than its parts.