Review by John Apice
Philip Scott Poli – One Sky
Though not quite there yet I’d say award-winning songwriter Philip Scott Poli is on the right track to be another Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. At least he’s following in his footsteps.
I’m not saying Poli has to sing about liberal issues, politics & controversy, or go to union protests. His songs just need more meat on them. Think Townes van Zandt with a Jimmie Dale Gilmore voice. Poli has that likable vocal — just tweak it into a traditional edgier manner.
What do I mean? Poli is a songwriting specialist (certificate from Berklee). I’m suspect that he uses the textbook styles of songwriting when he should crack the binding on the book to create something away from formula. Willie Nelson didn’t go to college to write his hits.
“One Sky,” is delightful, “Already Want You,” has a gentle Euro-style Caroline King accordion & a warm melody. Sounds like something you’d hear outside a Parisian café in the 1920s. “Give Me Away,” touches vocally in a similar tradition to Gilmore. Reaching cut 7 “Iron into Gold,” Poli is excellent, stylistic, with a song of great intonation & phrasing. Wonderful mandolin & piano. Rich & indelible.
Windsor Ontario’s Philip Scott Poli has the look of a genuine troubadour with his bald head & sincere face. The CD One Sky is his first (drops Oct 1 – Independent). Recorded apparently in pieces throughout the world makes it interesting & ambitious.
Poli in Canada, Caroline in Cleveland, Ohio. Keith MacNeil (mandolin – in Cape Breton Island, Canada), Johnny McCullough (piano in Belfast, Ireland). Breagh MacNeil (harmonies, from Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada), Mark Evitts (strings in Nashville), Stephen Maginnis (drums – Belfast, Ireland), & Dale Rivard (steel guitar/dobro – in Tilbury, Ontario, Canada).
The cleverest tune is “Where Do All the Hit Songs Go?” – which could easily be a hit for someone either in-country or pop. It’s described as a Willie “Nelsonesque” tune, but I don’t think so. It’s not outlaw enough. Poli wisely wrote & performed it in a manner similar to country songwriting legend Roger Miller. It comes close to being a novelty song but it’s too good, too poignant to be. It has humor, but I hear Dolly Parton or Reba. They have the tonality to sing this with equal parts of emotion & nostalgia.
Poli could break that hard shell of country radio but he needs to either create something with the typical country formula trimmings or write something with controversy enough to turn heads. Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” was one such song in the 60s & Glenn Yarborough’s “Baby, The Rain Must Fall,” another. With a unique voice & by adding some vinegar to his lyrics, more compelling stuff imbued with that tenacity of a Lyle Lovett & Gilmore will help Poli.
“Shine,” & “The Story,” has that voice – both aggressive & beautiful.
The 10-track, 37-minute LP – produced by Peter McVeigh (in Belfast). Available at https://www.philipscottpoli.com/#home-section