|Tinsley Ellis — Midnight Blue |
Tinsley Ellis — Midnight Blue
Ξ A hard-rocking, high-voltage blues guitarist most often compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tinsley Ellis is hardly one of the legions of imitators that comparison might imply. Schooled in a variety of Southern musical styles, Ellis draws not only from fiery Vaughan-style blues-rock, but also Texas bluesmen like Freddie King and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, the soulful blues of B.B. King, the funky grit of Memphis soul, and numerous other electric bluesmen.
Born in Atlanta in 1957
Location: Southern Florida
Album release: January 14, 2014
Record Label: Lanslide
01. If The River Keeps Rising (3:48)
02. Mouth Turn Dry (4:53)
03. Surrender (5:15)
04. It's Not Funny (4:20)
05. See No Harm (4:24)
06. The Only Thing (3:17)
07. Peace And Love (4:38)
08. Harder To Find (6:38)
09. That's My Story (6:39)
10. Kiss Of Death (7:05)
♠ Jim DeMain Mastering
♠ Tinsley Ellis Composer, Guitar, Producer, Vocals
♠ Joan E. Hunt Cover Photo
♠ Larry Leake Jacket Design, Photography
♠ Kevin McKendree Engineer, Mixing, Organ, Piano
♠ Ted Pecchio Bass (Acoustic), Bass (Electric)
♠ Niklas Rodewald Assistant Engineer
♠ Lynn Williams Drums, Percussion
♠ "Midnight Blue, Get It!'s follow-up, evidences the bluesman's return to more familiar terrain. The ten-song program commences with "If the River Keeps Rising," where Ellis comes out of the gate playing acoustic blues. His throaty baritone ominously offers its metaphorical warning through the first verse before the band comes careening in a la Led Zep's "When the Levee Breaks." It's loud, proud, and nasty. Ellis' slide work is spare but stinging. "Mouth Turn Dry" is modern electric blues driven not only by guitar but Kevin McKendree's rave-up B-3. "Surrender" is an emotive soul-blues that showcases just how fine a singer Ellis is when he wants to be. It also possesses a bumping bassline from Ted Pecchio (one of many), a cut-time shuffle by Lynn Williams (whose grooves throughout this album are infectious), and shimmering Rhodes and B-3 work from McKendree. Ellis' fills and solo cut the track wide open. It's a slow burner, but a deep one. Other highlights include the Ray Charles-inspired "See No Harm" and the crystalline yet biting, B.B. King-influenced "Peace and Love" (that distinguishes itself with a unique use of the wah-wah pedal). While "Harder to Find" begins with an acoustic piano, it starts to throb Hendrix-style with psych effects while remaining a 12-bar blues. "That's My Story" is a sonic bonfire; a funky, dirty boogie a la early ZZ Top. ♠ The set closes on the simmering "Kiss of Death," a slow blues that reveals Ellis and band's commitment to the Chicago Blues. It displays gorgeous melodic playing and a refusal to indulge in obviousness and exquisite taste. Midnight Blue is solid top to bottom, and is the finest studio album since 2005's The Hard Way."
♠ Un bon album de blues-rock aux influences variées, mais dans lequel les sensibilités rhythm'n'blues sont tres présentes.
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♠ Tinsley Ellis wears his Southern roots proudly. Born in Atlanta in 1957, he grew up in southern Florida and first played guitar at age eight. He found the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream, and The Rolling Stones. He especially loved the Kings — Freddie, B.B. and Albert. His love for the blues solidified when he was 14. At a B.B. King performance, Tinsley sat mesmerized in the front row. When B.B. broke a string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to Ellis. Tinsley’s fate was sealed; he had to become a blues guitarist. And yes, he still has that string.
♠ Already an accomplished teenaged musician, Ellis left Florida and returned to Atlanta in 1975. He soon joined the Alley Cats, a gritty blues band that included Preston Hubbard (Fabulous Thunderbirds fame). In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. Upon hearing Live At The Moonshadow (Landslide), the band’s second release, Washington Post declared, “Tinsley Ellis is a legitimate guitar hero.” After cutting two more Heartfixers albums for Landslide, Cool On It (featuring Tinsley’s vocal debut) and Tore Up (with vocals by blues shouter Nappy Brown), Ellis was ready to head out on his own. Ellis sent a copy of the master tape for his solo debut to Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records. “I had heard Cool On It,” recalls Iglauer, “and I was amazed. I hadn’t heard Tinsley before, but he played like the guys with huge international reputations. It wasn’t just his raw power; it was his taste and maturity that got to me. It had the power of rock but felt like the blues. I knew I wanted to hear more of this guy.”
♠ Georgia Blue, Tinsley’s first Alligator release, hit an unprepared public by surprise in 1988. “It’s hard to overstate the raw power of his music,” raved Chicago Sun-Times. Before long, Alligator arranged to reissue Cool On It and Tore Up, thus exposing Tinsley’s blistering earlier music to a growing fan base. Tinsley’s subsequent releases — 1989’s Fanning The Flames, 1992’s Trouble Time, 1994’s Storm Warning, and 1997’s Fire It Up — further expanded the guitarist’s hero status. By now his talents as a songwriter equaled his guitar prowess. Guitar World said, “Ellis stands alongside Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter, and that ain’t just hype.” Guests like Peter Buck (R.E.M.), guitarist Derek Trucks and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (The Rolling Stones) joined him in the studio. Producers Eddy Offord (John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Yes) and the legendary Tom Dowd (The Allman Brothers, Ray Charles) helped Ellis hone his studio sound. His largest audience by far came when NBC Sports ran a feature on Atlanta’s best blues guitarist during their 1996 Summer Olympic coverage, viewed by millions of people all over the world.
♠ A move to Capricorn Records in 2000 saw Ellis revisiting his Southern roots with Kingpin. Unfortunately, the label folded soon after the CD’s release. In 2002, he joined the Telarc label, producing two well-received albums of soul-drenched blues-rock, Hell Or High Water and The Hard Way. All the while, Ellis never stopped touring. “A musician never got famous staying home,” he’s quick to note. Ellis’ 2005 return to Alligator, the searing guitar-fueled Live-Highwayman, was the live recording his fans had been demanding for years. Chicago Tribune said, “incendiary live performances, inspired, original and funky.” Then followed two more studio albums on Alligator — Moment Of Truth (2007) and Speak No Evil (2009).
♠ Averaging over 150 live shows a year, Ellis has played in all 50 states, as well as Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. Whether he’s out with his own band or sharing stages with major artists like Buddy Guy, The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule or Widespread Panic, he always digs deep and plays, as Guitar Player says, “…as if his life depended on it.” Ellis' most recent tour with Blues At The Crossroads II: Muddy & The Wolf with the Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson, James Cotton, Jody Williams and Bob Margolin was by all accounts one of the best shows of 2013.
♠ Speak No Evil, 2009 (Alligator)
♠ Moment Of Truth, 2007 (Alligator)
♠ Live-Highwayman, 2005 (Alligator)
♠ The Hard Way, 2004 (Telarc)
♠ Hell Or High Water, 2002 (Telarc)
♠ Kingpin, 2000 (Capricorn)
♠ Fire It Up, 1997 (Alligator)
♠ Storm Warning, 1994 (Alligator)
♠ Trouble Time, 1992 (Alligator)
♠ Fanning The Flames, 1989 (Alligator)
♠ Georgia Blue, 1988 (Alligator)
♠ Cool On It, 1986 (Landslide/reissued on Alligator)
|Tinsley Ellis — Midnight Blue |