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Paul Slavens

"Alphabet Girls, Vol. II" by Paul Slavens (June 24, State Fair Records) is the crystallization and distillation of the Nebraska born, Denton, TX-based artist’s long, varied, and accomplished career, complete with all of the requisite breakthroughs and disappointments.

On record, Slavens’s endurance is a listener’s treat. "Alphabet Girls, Vol. II" plays like the product of a “been everywhere, seen everything” guru-type somehow fitting all of his experience and education onto five lines of musical staff like some kind of trippy Tetris.

Funny, but serious. Jazz, but pop. Quirky, but grounded. "Alphabet Girls, Vol. II" (the title isn’t a red herring, the “girls” of "Vol. I" showed up twelve years ago) is all of these things and more.

But not.

“My goal was to make beautiful sounds,” Slavens said. “I am not too impressed with my singing or my playing. I am most interested in the compositions. That’s number one. I do not feel like I am a ‘songwriter,’ but rather a composer who sometimes works in song.”

A songwriter, but not.

Some other artists and their eras that Slavens names as touchstones include Burt Bacharach, early Kate Bush (“I always thought that she approached her music as a composer”), and later Scott Walker (“I love his unconventional use of orchestra”), adding, “I can’t downplay the influence that Chopin had on me.”

Opening "Alphabet Girls, Vol. II" with a reworking of the same piece that closed Vol. I, the instrumental overture “Naomi,” we are quickly whisked into a cinematic universe, which, like its predecessor, is an alphabetically ordered ode to women given their rightful place as rulers. Gentle orchestrations, deep sinewy cellos, plucked harp, and accordion contribute to this “sad waltz,” as Slavens calls it. Some will use the word “masterpiece” immediately, because how else to define work as detailed, studied, and mature as this?

But not. Not too mature.

Because at 60-years-old, it’s clear that Slavens has accomplished so much artistically and otherwise, that he just doesn’t give a fuck. As listeners, that’s the entire game. We’re better for that. To wit, the record quickly moves on from its delicate opening into “Ophelia,” a sorta nutso number made even stranger by how it was influenced by Slavens’s stir-crazy lockdown labor.

“I got into some kind of ‘state’ and completely reimagined and mutilated the recording,” Slavens remembers. “I was isolated, so I allowed myself to do some things I might not have,” he said of a song in which Prince Hamlet asks that the doomed Danish noblewoman “give a guy some slack” because, look, “I killed your Dad / I know, that’s bad / But there’s no reason / Why it has to drive you mad.”

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“Paul Slavens is undoubtedly one of North Texas’ most notable and accomplished musicians.” — Dallas Observer
Burt Bacharach
composer / conductor

Album Discography


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