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CD REVIEW: Paddy Mills - Race to the Bottom
By Cyrus Rhodes - 12/22/2014 - 01:32 PM EST

Artist: Paddy Mills
Album: Race to the Bottom
Label: Ormal Nye Records
Genre: Folk/Pop
Sounds Like: John Prine, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Woody Guthrie, Jesse Winchester, John Gorka, Marlin Sexton, Chris
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 8/10
Best Songs: Wooden Boat, Race to the Bottom. Since the Big Box Came to Town
Weakness: More raw vocal emotion, short sided CD, a few winded Songs, a few short Sided Songs
CD Review: (WARREN, ME.) Paddy Mills is an award winning folk singer from the coast of Maine. The son of a part time DJ at the local AM country radio station, Paddy grew up in the small fishing village of Owl’s Head. He cut his teeth playing Irish music at pubs throughout New England. These are the elements that inform his writing; from the direct and simple approach of classic country music, the emphasis on melody and storytelling found in traditional Irish music, to the unpretentious attitude and dry wit that stem from a hard scrabble life of scratching out a living where the ocean meets the land. described his last release as being “full of finely crafted and masterfully performed songs”. In his latest release Race to the Bottom Mills demonstrates once again that he can spin a yarn, catch a song, turn a phrase and make a point with a wink and a wry smile. Among his many impressive awards includes: 2014 South Florida Folk Festival Singer-Songwriter Competition Winner 2014 Mid Atlantic Song Contest- Gold- Folk/Acoustic category 2014 NERFA One Day Conference Official Showcase Artist

The CD lifts off the ground nicely with Track 1, “Bay View Massacre” a heartfelt flowing ballad that serves up an earthy guitar-driven groove, well placed Mandolin, meshed against effective folk balladry, striking lyrical content meshed against soulful melody from Mills. Track 2, “Race to the Bottom” shifts gears a bit with a steady flowing rhythm and well placed Americana-Folk ambience painted against impressive fiddles, Pedal Steel and thought provoking lyrical content making for an upbeat follow-up statement. Track 3, “Fox in the Barnyard” is another impressive ditty that dishes full tilt rhythm section, impressive guitar licks that flows and ebbs its way through to motional fruition. The CD makes a strong first impression, dashing out 3 very solid songs in a row. The musicianship involved is above the bar. I would classify this music as classic Folk, Singer/Songwriter. Pop/Americana, with brief touches of Saloon Jazz to R&B. Mills’ music is reminiscent of classic Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Jesse Winchester, John Prine, John Gorka, Marlin Sexton, Chris Smither, Paul Simon and Don MacLean. Along the way you will notice lush instrumentation with Mandolin, Organ, Rhythm Guitar, lush harmonies, amazing R&B guitar licks all built upon a ‘thick as a brick’ rhythm section. What I like the most about Mills and his band, is how well they seem to groove together, testament to hundreds of hours of writing and rehearsal time no doubt. Now turning our attention over to Mills. As for his vocal abilities - he’s a great advent for the Singer/Songwriter or Folk genre. His voice goes down smooth and fills the space peacefully and unobtrusively with a timbre that is s bit infectious. I might add he takes some impressive vocal risks indicating to me a confident vocal ability. All songs are extremely well crafted and consistent across the board - World Class Songwriting. All production aspects check out. Within the sonic spectrum I enjoyed the solid low end punch and the crystal clear high end clarity. This latest effort from Paddy Mills delivers 11 solid timeless tracks all providing musical enjoyment filled with strong musical variety and diversity. The music of Paddy Mills has everything you would expect from a world class musical production. From heartfelt “Penobscot Bay” to rock steady “Wooden Boat” and When Spring Comes Around” to smooth flowing “Another Day Another Sand Dollar” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 20 “Echoing Off the Moon” the perfect finale statement for a CD like this.
I wish I heard more heart stopping vocal emotion from Mills on some of the slower moments of his music. To go with this last comment why not put a few songs on the catalog showcasing just the guitar and a heart stopping baritone during all the pin drop moments. At the end of the day people don't but plastic, they buy emotions. CD contains 11 Tracks, perhaps 2-3 more tracks are needed to make this a fully loaded CD release. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. All songs under 3 minutes tend to feel like incomplete statements to me.

From start to finish, "Race to the Bottom” by Paddy Mills is an impressive collection of music. The songwriting is gold standard – full of consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Note for note, song for song, there isn’t really a weak piece in this entire catalog. The writing and playing abilities of Paddy Mills and company are rock solid. The melodies and harmonies are well crafted, and the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with good old-fashioned conventional wisdom and a very appealing blue collar Folk filled atmosphere.  At the end of the day Paddy Mills brings the mojo, and is clearly a marquee talent. No wonder he has so many impressive accolades. One would be wise to keep a watchful eye on him over the years to come – down in his new home. But perhaps he’s beyond all of that.

Cyrus Rhodes

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