Songs of Praise & Scorn

Christopher Paul Stelling

Christopher Paul Stelling prefers a landscape as a performance setting when jamming out his acoustic ballads. Put him aside a babbling brook and he’ll kick off his shoes and play guitar half-submerged. Songs of Praise & Scorn is a personal debut that sums up a man’s life as a long, humble sigh. The album’s shiner, “The Ocean Stole My Love Away,” a finger-picked ode to love lost in the sea, proposes oceanic holy matrimony. In “Strange Darkness,” Stelling exposes his weary secrets, living like a ghost among the lonesome narratives that accompany his wandering melodies. “Little Broken Birds” rolls with a tension reminiscent of Mark Kozelek, who’d appreciate its rueful inflections and coos. Each song inhabits some element of nature — groaning ocean and rainy nights, storms hastening into hurricanes. They’re rapturous odes to the natural world, but Stelling’s words scorn the heartache found in self-doubt, loss and empty experience. You’ll find that there’s someone you know who is a Christopher Paul Stelling; street name: Chris Paul. He’s typically the bearded guy panhandling with a guitar and lowly voice, not for money, but for the sake of sharing lovely chords.