You wouldn’t know it from the sounds of it, but Eli “Paperboy” Reed, is not only precociously young but also white. I say this because when you listen to his records one could easily imagine him being slightly older than say, his 24 years, and also not a white jewish kid from Brookline, MA.
That this is possible speaks not only to the universality of music – if you grow up listening to Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, gospel and soul why not perform that kind of music? – but also to my inherent rascism. That having these thoughts disappear just seconds into the opening notes of any Eli Reed song will help destroy any preconceived notions a person holds about what kinds of music certain people should be making. Certainly more than say Eminem. It’s not uncommon for white guys to rap now, but for a young white guy to have the soul and depth in his voice of a man twice his age is almost too much to take.
After graduating high school, Reed moved from the lillywhite suburbs to the Mississippi Delta and after nine months in the deep South he migrated north to Chi-town. His college education was in juke joints and playing organ at churches on the South Side of Chicago. That none of this is invented speaks to the growing legend of the Eli “Paperboy” Reed as he cuts his teeth playing the bars around Boston.
Bars like the Middle East, Johnny D’s, The Milky Way and Harper’s Ferry have all grooved to the soul soothing sounds of Eli and his seven piece band. The funky bass, the uplifting horns. This is ass shaking, toe tapping music that Jay-Z and Timbaland could never create. This is music from a dude with a sweaty soul deep down to the tips of his guitar playing fingers.
The boys just got back from South By Southwest and though they are laying low for now, be sure to catch Eli over at the Plough and Stars Monday nights when he spins a bevy of songs out of his own collection, on April 7 they’ll be competing in WBCN’s Rock and Roll Rumble.
And if you can’t make it up to Boston, then keep your ears open for an appearance near you.