Outside the Camel, it’s a rainy Sunday night.
Inside, singer/songwriter Eli Paperboy Reed is conducting a high-energy, juke joint revival. In coat and tie, with a red guitar and stylized orange owls on his black shoes, he sings, shouts, pleads and howls.
There is a lot of blues and gospel in the music, a touch of Janis Joplin and James Brown in the delivery. The rhythm section- bass, Wurlitzer and Hammond keyboards, and a multicolored candy-flake drum kit- play with tightly focused intensity. Each new song blazes out from the ashes of the last. There is enough variety in the music to keep things fresh, and Reed keeps the crowd engaged, with fiery solos, dramatic pauses, and insistent bits of audience participation.
Reed is an impressive talent to see in such an intimate space. His guitar playing is spot on, his soulful singing is powerful enough to fill the room off-mic. His songs are polished, mini classics. The earliest-“Don’t Let Me Down” – dates back to his teens. His latest- “Find My Way Home” – is the title cut of his upcoming album for Warner Brothers. In a fair world he would be at the National, or the Broadberry, with a larger audience than the sizeable but not sellout crowd that showed up at The Camel.
If you weren’t there, and let’s face it, you probably weren’t, you missed a rollicking good night of music. With any luck, sometime soon you may get a second chance.