Local resident revives forgotten musical era with album

Paul Marsteller

The Beautiful Old’ earns rave reviews, international attention

By Rob LeDonne

Turn on any radio and it will be easy to find a station playing music from virtually any era, whether it’s pop from the 1980s, disco from the 1970s, or even doo wop from the 1950s. However, one era that remains completely non-existent for today’s listeners — whether it’s radio or actual recordings — is one that was thriving just over 100 years ago, around the end of the 19th century. It’s an era before the dawn of audio recording when the only way to hear the popular songs of the day was to buy sheet music. As the years have gone by and the roots of pop, jazz, and rock took hold, this era was largely forgotten until Paul Marsteller, a native of Washington, D.C., and current North County resident, took an interest.

Marsteller is a retired real estate agent who in the past decade has dabbled in the music industry, specializing in songwriting and executive producing a variety of albums. During research for one of his songwriting projects, he was looking for an already-written song from the turn of the century.

“I went digging around and realized that there weren’t many recordings of songs from that era around today. There’s this pocket of music, before country, blues, jazz, and folk, which was extremely popular during that time. These songs sold millions of copies of sheet music, but little to no recordings exist.”

As a result, Marsteller said “a light bulb went off,” and he had a novel idea. “I thought I could put together an album with a variety of musicians covering these neglected tracks, recording them the way they were originally written back then.”

The Beautiful OldThat album, released in June and called “The Beautiful Old,” features 19 songs recorded by some of today’s hottest folk, rock and Americana acts, and has been a labor of love for Marsteller for the past few years, starting with Marsteller contacting artists through social media.

“I first went through and found songs that were unrecorded and might sound good to modern ears, most of which are sentimental tales and story songs. I basically started writing anybody I thought I’d want on the album, linking up these tracks with artists who would be a good fit with them.”

One by one, Marsteller received a variety of enthusiastic replies and wound up with a roster filled with the likes of Garth Hudson of The Band, Dave Davies of The Kinks, Graham Parker, and many more.

“We recorded everything in a very faithful way,” explained Marsteller, who traveled back and forth to a studio in Austin, Texas during the process. “We even used period instruments that were well over 100 years old.”

Marsteller’s musical partner in Austin, Gabriel Rhodes, did all of the musical production for the album and played many of the instruments on the record. Marsteller served as executive producer.

The final product has been garnering rave reviews and international attention, including from national magazines such as Paste. Even CBS News recently contacted Marsteller for a story about the album. European music critics have fallen in love with it as well, many writing rave reviews.

“Everybody seems to like the execution of it,” Marsteller said. “Previous decades have been done to death, so fans share the idea that it’s nice to discover what’s been forgotten. These songs precede everyone who is currently alive.”

“The Beautiful Old” is available on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby.

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