'Never believe the newspapers.' Cried a despairing reviewer after one of
Paul's recent German concerts. The newspapers will tell you he's a
musician, a comedian, a poet, a songwriter, a story-teller and a
philosopher - all in one person. But what they don't tell you is that, once
you've taken your seat, and established that the cappuccino is hot and the
soft drinks are cold, the fabric of reality begins to shimmy in an
unfamiliar manner. Surreal stories delivered with absolute conviction mesh
seamlessly with satirical, bluesy or, romantic or political songs. One
minute you're laughing fit to burst, the next minute you have a lump in
your throat and a catch in your breath. The guitar is by turns, dynamic or
lyrical; the words are beautiful or outrageous. Yes, there is philosophy in
there, and poetry, and the stories are irresistible but ..... 'Well,' he
concludes, 'You can believe the things he tells you or not, that's up to
you, but you've experienced Paul Cowlan.' (HNP-Kulturspiegel)
As if to emphasize this dilemma, a second journalist, reviewing the same concert, after duly noting the voice, the individual guitar style, the humour, the harmonica and the frequent reality shifts, had this to say. 'When the tower clock strikes midnight, a dog barks in the distance, rats scratch at the hotel wainscotting, a wolf pushes up through the carpet and strange voices ring in your head; then it's the hour when clowns cry. Luckily for us they then present us with beautiful songs.' (Kultur in Stadt und Kreis)
Characterisically, Italian reviewers speak of 'lunar magic', 'poetry of the night' and 'showers of glittering, silver notes.' (Out of Time). A Dutch journalist, as might be expected from such a horticultural nation, finds the songs, 'truly intriguing and fertilizing.' (New Folk Sounds).The French reviewer Jacques Bremond, writing in Cri du Coyote observes that 'this seasoned traveller, guitar in hand, brings to apparently insignificant details a detached attention through which they acquire a universal significance.'
'One moment he had his audience laughing fit to burst and, in the next, so moved it hurt.' reports the German Neue Westfälische.
And what of the English-speaking world? After all, the man is English, despite having spent twenty-one of his twenty-seven years on the road based in Germany.'
His first appearance at London's Kashmir Klub was reported thus. 'A very experienced performer who has carved out a successful career in Germany. On this evidence it was easy to see why: his songs are original and memorable, his guitar playing versatile and dynamic, his voice strong and handsome - and he plays a mean harmonica as well. Home To You was a beautifully concise love song, while Escaping The Wolves ('Backtracks') was more in the English folk ballad style, harking back to youth. A class act, is Paul.' (Bakstage' Annabel's Diary)
'An intelligent, literate songwriter, his songs often have several layers of meaning and bear repeated listening to draw out the subtleties.' is the opinion of Britain's Folk on Tap. And, from across the Herring Pond, after deciding that the 'sly British wit' modifies initial comparisons to Ralph Ralph McTell and Martyn Carthy, the reviewer for 'Dirty Linen' remarks that 'never does his humor overshadow excellent guitar-playing and inventive, clever melodies.'
Finally, from New Zealand's The Real Groove come comparisons with Martin Carthy (Again. But more worldly!), Roy Harper and Mark Knopfler. The songs 'cover very different and always complex lyrical territory, his storytelling ranges from satiric humour to heartrending pathos.'
Ah, but you should never believe what you read in the papers!