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Filling the Pages
Artist: Matthew Ebel
Label: Independent
Time: 10 tracks, 43:18 minutes

Filling the Pages, the second independent release by singer/songwriter Matthew Ebel, is a ten-song collection of stories and tales from Ebel's life.  At times reminiscent of the late Keith Green, both vocally and musically, Ebel brings an extensive background of musical training and an honest, transparent approach to the adult-contemporary arena of Christian music.

The title track introduces the album's theme: "So what do the stories all mean?/ I try to find some common thread/I tell you it's true, Jesus cares about you and he straightens the road up ahead...I believe and I am not afraid/I'm filling the pages with stories and choices I've made."  Ebel pulls no punches from the start and creates an air of realness that continues throughout the album.

"Sally Went Down" is a jazz-infused track that highlights Ebel's ability to belt out a soul-laden vocal performance, while showcasing his talent on the keyboard.  Ebel's voice sounds most comfortable in this style of music, and quite honestly, he sounds like he's having more fun.  Several other songs on Filling the Pages seem plagued by Ebel's extensive vocal training, as if vocal technique proves more of a hindrance than help. It's on this song, though, that Ebel's voice offers a smooth delivery mixed, paradoxically, with raw quality that may leave the listener wishing for more.

Ebel possesses a passionate delivery on the piano, which finds a perfect platform on the ballad "All I Want Is You."  Spotlighting the captivating elements of love in a relationship, Ebel's piano playing and voice mix well in a performance that is both aesthetically pleasing and convincing. Lyrically, he errs toward the sappy side, but remains within the context of an unashamed love.  In addition, his lyrical wanderings through the "land of love" are not too demanding of the listener, since his vocal and musical delivery take center stage.

Ebel closes the album of testimonies and stories with his own declaration in the song "I Will Follow."  Again, the listener will find nothing hidden or ambiguous in the lyrics, just Ebel's own strong stance: "I will follow, I will die, I will make my stand with you/Ride with you 'till the morning sky, it's the least that I can do."

Lyrically, one probably will not find Ebel engrossing.  His words are clear and honest, as is usually the case in a "storyteller" genre of music.  Yet, his songs maintain depth of honesty as a whole through their message and, for the most part, there is the "common thread" that Ebel is looking for in the title track.

If you're looking to be dumbfounded and floored by theological discoveries accompanied by music, Filling the Pages is probably not for you. But if you're looking for a "piano man" with a story to tell, give Ebel a try.  Either way, Ebel is a talented young artist who deserves a chance and may end up making some sonic waves in the future.

Matt Williams, September 15, 2001

With his second indie release, Filling the Pages, singer/songwriter Matthew Ebel once again joins the many independent artists who warrant a label.

Hailing from rainy Spokane, Washington, Ebel's music and lyrics reflect a bright spot in the midst of a dreary and often gloomy state.  Grassroots, piano-driven musical beds are cheerfully combined with strong lyrics and vocals.

Filling the Pages opens with the title track-a warm and upbeat piano-based cut, reminiscent of a Keith Green epic.  The song speaks eloquently about making choices in life and living without fear.  Based on Isaiah 26:7, the song takes on a life of its own with the various flutes, strings and other instruments flowing throughout the track.  "I believe and I am not afraid/I'm filling the pages with stories and choices I've made."

Track three, "Sally Went Down," is a folky song about the consequences of a lukewarm Christian walk.  This track is a definite toe-tapper, with a choppy, jazz-feel piano base.  This is one song you'll want to listen to over and over.

"All I Want Is You" and "Someone's Out There" are relational songs, speaking of romance and friendship, respectively.  Both are soaring, flowing, yet sweet, ballads with thoughtful lyrics speaking of the needs and desires for companionship and support each human possesses.

Between raw vocal songs like "Devotional Song #21" and acoustic guitar tracks like "Rain," this album demonstrates a full range of musical talents and abilities, all tied together by the warm vocals and natural lyrics of Ebel.

"Coming Home" is a beautifully harmonized track comparing the long road between Nashville and Spokane-and the relief in returning home-with straying from the faith and returning once again.  "And though it felt so good to leave, so good to be alone/Then the road rose up to meet me/I'm coming home!"

The album finishes with the bright, upbeat "I Will Follow," which is a battle cry of Ebel's determination to stand firm in his faith.

Filling the Pages is a well-produced, well-imagined album capturing the beauty and sensitivity of an experienced songwriter.

Kerry Maffeo September 23, 2001



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