The opening track on Richard Shindell's fourth album is called "Confession," but most of his compositions on the record could have been given the same title, since they are first-person story songs in which one character reveals something to another. In "Confession," a fallen-Catholic stock broker talks about himself as a means of wheedling more pills from his doctor; in "Abuelita," a grandmother reaches out to a grandchild who was adopted by another family; in "You Stay Here," a refugee confers with his family before going out for provisions; and "Wisteria" finds a couple sitting outside a house they used to live in and reminiscing. These are small, detailed portraits that Shindell inhabits without getting sentimental or, for the most part, drawing any conclusions, though the apocalyptic "Transit," the album's longest song and the one that contains the phrase "somewhere near Paterson," calls up a vision of road rage that turns drivers into lemmings, plunging into the Delaware Water Gap after losing their tempers over a nun with a flat tire -- this ex-seminarian retains some of his Catholic sense of retribution. The songs are built on Shindell's resonant voice and rhythmic playing, which producer Larry Campbell augments with a variety of stringed instruments, most of which he plays himself. Shindell's partners in "Cry, Cry, Cry," Lucy Kaplansky and Dar Williams, turn up here and there, notably joining him on Buddy and Julie Miller's "My Love Will Follow You," which could have fit nicely on the Cry, Cry, Cry album. Somewhere Near Paterson is a collection of carefully crafted miniatures that do not add up to a major statement.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann