Since emerging onto the American music scene in 1991 with a Boston Acoustic Underground Award, Ellis Paul has garnered national attention as a talented songwriter.

Since emerging onto the American music scene in 1991 with a Boston Acoustic Underground Award, Ellis Paul has garnered national attention as a talented songwriter.

Taking his cue from folk artists Bill Morrissey, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and others, Paul spins folk songs that are literate, poetic and relevant to his generation.

"Ellis is one of our best human compasses, marking in melodies and poems where we've been and where we might go if we so choose to," says Nora Guthrie, Woody Guthrie's daughter.

The singer and songwriter will perform his folk-pop style of music — a style that bridges modern folk and the populist traditions of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger — at 8 p.m. Friday, May 3, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Singer and songwriter Rebecca Loebe will open the show. Tickets cost $18 and can be purchased at Music Coop, online at or by calling 541-535-3562. Tickets will cost $20 at the door, $10 for ages 17 and younger. Kids 11 and younger get in free.

With about 17 albums to his credit, Paul's newest is "The Hero in You," released in 2012 on Black Wolf Records. Parents' Choice gave "The Hero in You" a Gold Award, calling it "an inspired, family album with execution to match."

Known for his socially conscious songwriting, often about heroes, Paul was inspired by his two daughters — and four years of performing for families — to write about those who contributed something to the world through their work and art.

"The Hero in You" includes such notables as Guthrie, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks.

"These people did amazing things," Paul says in a news release. "They also can inspire young people to go out and do something out of the ordinary and become the heroes of their own lives."

"The Hero in You" follows Paul's 2010 release, "The Day After Everything Changed," also on the Black Wolf label. Recorded in Nashville, "The Day After" features five songs co-written by his longtime friend and collaborator Kristian Bush, founder of the Grammy Award-winning band Sugarland. Several Sugarland musicians played as Ellis' backing band for the album.

Today, Paul is regarded as such a classic, urban songwriter that it's hard to fathom what a small-town boy he was, according to the songwriter's website. He grew up in northern Maine, in a potato-farming community so remote that his exposure to music came almost entirely from the one Top 40 station he could get on his radio. He was good enough at playing trumpet in his school band to earn a summer scholarship to Berklee College of Music.

Later, he toured the country competing in track and earned a track scholarship to Boston College. When a knee injury ended his track career, he discovered songwriting. Soon he was haunting the open-mic scene that would produce such early '60s folk artists as Dar Williams, Vance Gilbert, Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball, Martin Sexton, Patty Griffin and Catie Curtis.

Almost immediately, Paul's infectious melodicism, literate lyrics and honest performing style drew attention. As early as 1993, the Boston Globe was calling him a songwriter's songwriter, adding that "no emerging songwriter in recent memory has been more highly touted and respected."