“I am a big fan of Paul Kaplan. I love his singing; I love his songs.”
— Pete Seeger
Veteran musician and songwriter Paul Kaplan has been an enthusiastic participant in the folk music world since the late 1960s when his early anti-Vietnam war songs were published in the legendary protest magazine Broadside.
His involvement with the singer-songwriter movement was sparked by his early love of the songs of Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton. He pursued that love as a frequent attendee at the Songwriters’ Exchange at the Cornelia Street Cafe, in New York, and as a prolific contributor to The Fast Folk Musical Magazine, in which ten of his songs were included. In the late 1970s, Paul had the opportunity to produce three posthumous albums by Phil Ochs for Folkways.
His first album, Life on This Planet, featured the songs "Call Me the Whale" and "Henry the Accountant", later covered by such folk music greats as Sally Rogers, David Massengill, Jay Mankita and Ed McCurdy. His song "I Had an Old Coat" from King of Hearts (1985) has been sung by Nickelodeon stars Sharon, Lois and Bram (The Elephant Show), as well as by Claudia Schmidt and Sally Rogers, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise, to name just a few. All three songs are available on his CD The Folk Process.
Paul’s interest in traditional music is reflected in his four years as a member of the group The Derby Ram, resident band of the Eagle Tavern in New York City. With band founder Dan Milner, Paul co-authored the popular A Bonnie Bunch of Roses-Songs of England, Ireland and Scotland, published by Music Sales.
In his solo career, Paul’s warm style and gentle humor have charmed audiences at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, The Great Hudson River Revival, The Gotta Get Gon and Denmark’s prestigious Tønder Festival, as well as such venues as Passim, The Eighth Step, Mother’s Wine Emporium and Golden Link.
Paul has been honored by the inclusion of his songs in two monumental collections produced by Smithsonian Folkways. One of his first songs, Vietnam, appears in the Grammy-nominated Best of Broadside. A second song, King of Hearts, is featured in Fast Folk – a Community of Singers & Songwriters. And in 2004 Henry the Accountant was included in Being Human — Readings from the President’s Council on Bioethics, along with works by Homer, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Whitman, G.B. Shaw, etc. Paul’s latest honor was having his songs “I Had an Old Coat” and “Call Me the Whale” included in the new Rise Again songbook, the successor to Rise up Singing.
His latest album – We Shall Stay Here – contains twelve songs that reflect the way he sees the world. Some may leave you in stitches; some may leave you in tears; some may leave you in your car in the driveway unable to stop listening. All of the supporting players did beautiful work on this album. Most notably, Paul was fortunate to get some amazing backup on four songs from Jay Ungar, composer of “Ashokan Farewell”, and from John Roberts, of “Roberts and Barrand” fame, who sings a duet with Paul and adds his classy concertina playing.
Other generous quotes –
You have all the goods in your songwriting. I’m hearing your songs on the lips of many as I travel, so you are making your mark.
I love the album. It is one of my favorites of this year. “These Are the Days,” “Traffic Jam In The Zocalo,” “If I Had Half An Acre” are some of my favorites.
Jersey Jim Sereda, WUSB FM
It is, indeed, incredibly moving and compelling what Paul Kaplan offers up here; he has a lot to say, knows how to put what’s on his mind into words and turn this into music. It would appear that classic protest folk music has not been forgotten and continues to live on. The sprouted seedling featured on the cover can serve to inspire us all to keep hope alive and nurture it while there is still time!.
Paul Kaplan has a rare gift for writing and singing songs in the old troubadour tradition. His new CD After the Fire is reminiscent of the works of Gordon Lightfoot and Stan Rogers, with beautiful melodies and strong narratives seamlessly crafted into one classic ballad after another. This is the work of a master.
One of the best lyricists America has.
A master at both comic writing and serious composing... From the moment he started to sing he had the audience eating right out of the palm of his hand.
I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by “Carrion Crow” – outstanding match of powerful, tradition-based tune to powerful, poetic lyrics that apply so directly to the tragic state of the world, much of it caused by our own national administration! Again, thank you, and congratulations.
Ed Brown (U’nI Coffeehouse, Springfield, Mass.)
Eat your heart out, Wayne Newton.
– and some generous reviews
We Shall Stay Here reviewed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
For half a century Paul Kaplan has been entertaining keen traditional folk audiences in the USA with his own lyrical interpretations of old folk favourites. His guitar style is uncomplicated, his vocal delivery clear, which is good because this man’s a true wit. Some of these songs deal with subjects which involve us all yet seem to have been overlooked. Take “These Are the Days,” coronavirus, for example; he sets his view on this to the original tune of the Mary Hopkin chart hit: “In the town of Wuhan was a market / Selling wild boar and pangolin / A virus came and people had to shelter / And they would sing these words … in Mandarin: / ‘These are the days, my friend, when will they ever end?...’ He often uses traditional melodies to deliver new, scathing observations on current life. For example, “The Frozen Blogger,” a live track, is truly funny. His love songs, such as the poignant title track, “We Shall Stay Here,” with its accordion, banjo and sweet harmonies, also demonstrates that this is an artist with a complete understanding of live acoustic performance. If Paul Kaplan reminds some listeners of Pete Seeger, it’s no coincidence. To the tune of Paul Robeson’s “The Ballad of Joe Hill,” he delivers his own dedication to the great folk hero with “The Voice of Pete.” Writing a song which sounds centuries old is quite a feat, but Kaplan achieves it with the marvelous “Let’s Make a Toast.” The old-style harmonies put one in mind of acts like “The Watersons.” This is the folk equivalent of the songs of Tom Lehrer: you’ll laugh your hat off to his reading of “Little Boxes.” So, hats off to Paul Kaplan, and if you’re looking for witty thought-provoking songs performed in style, he’s the man.
Roy Bainton, in Blues Matters (UK)
Paul Kaplan sounds like the folksingers from the USA we grew up with (Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs), and this has its reasons: He was around at their time already, and wrote his first song in 1966 (why is he not as well-known over here as he deserves?). The new album presents songs from today and from 1982, and everything sounds very much from now, and well-known at the same time (a song about pollution, written in 1982, unfortunately is even more to the point today). His great forte is making new words to songs we all know almost by heart. “Those were the days” becomes “These are the days,” a description of life in lockdown. And we can all join in when a song starts with “I dreamed I heard Pete Seeger sing” and like Joe Hill Pete Seeger smiles and his voice lives on. These are just some of the songs on this wonderful CD we can listen to again and again!”
Gabriele Haefs, in Folk World (Germany)
Folksinger Paul Kaplan's new album actually consists of three parts: “Three songs for our times,” “Three favorite songs from my debut [LP in] 1982” and “Six songs of grace, struggle and hope.” Those looking for the fun part in Paul Kaplan will immediately be addressed in those first three songs; well-known melodies on which he has grafted funny lyrics. And the live audience
is genuinely enjoying it. In the closing track “After The Fire” (as a result of 9/11) he seeks out the emo and a large background choir is allowed to express the hope for life.
We Shall Stay Here portrays a gifted storyteller, a folkie with a heart for his audience.
Paul Kaplan is a real troubadour: amusing and entertaining. Try to discover his back catalogue. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Marino Serdons, in Keys and Chords (Netherlands)