Eli "Paperboy" Reed

Come and Get It!

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Ever since the dawn of the electric guitar, white boys have sung the blues, some with considerably more success than others. Eli “Paperboy” Reed is part of that long tradition, but he stands apart from the pack as much as he belongs to it, due in large part to his age. Raised on CD reissues of classic blues and soul -- he was not even 10 when the first Complete Stax/Volt Singles box came out -- Reed has absorbed the sound and sensibility of classic ‘60s soul but sings without any white-boy blues affectations, totally comfortable in his own skin because nobody else his age, of any race, was attempting to make this kind of music. This can cause a kind of a disconnect -- Reed sounds so white when he sings, it’s disarming -- but he pours on the passion and has fully absorbed the tight turns of Stax and loves the sound as much as the structure, so much so that Come and Get It! -- his third LP and first for a major label -- feels a bit like an unearthed relic, built on songs and sounds that could pass for unheard gems if it wasn’t for Reed’s unapologetically white voice, free of affectations and ticks. Some of that may be due to producer Mike Elizondo’s work -- he manages to make this sound like a throwback without being stiff, and without having a hint of Mark Ronson’s hipster retroism for Amy Winehouse -- but he’s just articulating Reed’s gifts, letting the songs stand front and center. And that’s what’s remarkable about Come and Get It!: this is not a modern-day blues album, it’s a classic soul album, with almost all the tracks clocking in at 3:30 or less, leaving very little room for showboating solos. All concentration is on the tunes themselves, with the band kicking them toward kineticism, Reed channeling all his energy into making the songs sing, and they wind up sticking, sounding a bit like forgotten classics upon first listen, then winding up as familiar favorites upon the second. If there is any fault here, it’s that Reed’s voice remains perennially boyish, sometimes preventing this from achieving a level of gravity, but there’s no attempt to hide this: it’s an honest reflection of who Reed is, a young kid from Boston in love with the Southern sounds of the ‘60s and intent on carrying them on, even if he invites ridicule or scorn. He believes it, man, and based on Come and Get It!, it’s hard not to believe it too.

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