Naked Poetry, Paul Childers’ full length debut, is a thirteen song effort with the confidence and musical sweet much different from your typical first effort. Much of the album is devoted to extremely stylish R&B songs with a flesh and blood authenticity that never sounds forced or anything else other than natural. His use of the R&B genre’s standard themes and musical tropes is never heavy handed. Childers, instead, plays these moves just right. He comes across as a writer and performer absolutely sure of his creative direction from the moment the album kicks off and the confidence he exhibits never wavers once. Naked Poetry has just that – an unvarnished expression of where this young Nashville native stands at this point in his life and career. He’s further along than he has any right to be and is going to impressive a wide array of listeners.
The choice of “Music Pulls You Through” for the album opener is astute. We’ll get variations of what makes Paul Childers the songwriter and performer he is as the album evolves, but “Music Pulls You Through” is an essential testament of faith. Rather than adopting a personal voice for the song, he indulges his storytelling side just enough to give it added universality. His music takes a decidedly more personal turn with the cleverly titled “The Art of Being Twenty”, but it’s never confessional at the expense of musical excellence. He crouches this fine lyric inside a vibrant, multi-layered arrangement and the symbiotic relationship between its melody and writing enriches both key facets of the performance. “Why Don’t You Stay?” is the first of Childers’ slow simmering, intense R&B workouts where he manages to invoke a lifetime of thwarted desire and longing in a condensed musical space. His mastery of the form is totally, but it’s never just the exercise of bloodless skills. He invests this song with all the commitment and emotiveness it deserves.
“My Love of the Rain” might seem a little too neatly plotted out, but others will hear an artist concerned enough with proper presentation of his musical ideas that slaving over the individual details never seems too onerous. It’s the album’s longest track, not inordinately so, and has some quasi-classical overtones. It’s theatricality makes it quite memorable as well. The title song is, amusingly, the next song and shortest on the release. Running less than two minutes might seem like Childers has afforded himself too little time to create a musical mood, but the title song defies expectations and sounds more complete than songs twice its length. “Perfect Man” has one of the album’s strongest choruses on an album where excellence in that category isn’t in short supply. The sensitively wrought “Strangers” is another romantic/sexual relationship song and he brings his own unique way of addressing listeners on subjects any longtime music fan is familiar with hearing. Longing returns for a final bow on Naked Poetry’s concluding track “Stay a Little Longer”. These simple sentiments don’t seem so simple in the hands of such a rich vocalist – Childers doesn’t have a single hole in his style or presentation and this last illustration of that drives the point home. He has few equals, older or a peer, working today. Paul Childers’ Naked Poetry is a must have release for anyone interested in the future of traditional singer/songwriter oriented R&B.