Near thirty years since he first recorded for Alligator Records (and twenty since his last Alligator album, Tinsley Ellis returns with an album of house rocking blues and rock, showcasing his brawny, volcanic guitar and husky singing. He is joined by Kevin McKendree on keyboards (who co-produced this with Ellis), Steve Mackey on bass and Lynn Williams on drums that was engineered and mixed by McKendree at The Rock House.
Nine of the ten songs are Ellis originals and display the range of his music starting with the searing, hold no prisoners opening blues-rock of "Sound of a Broken Man." In contrast, the easy rocking shuffle blues, "Nothing But Fine," illustrates the clarity and precision, along with fire of his playing along with a more relaxed vocal, while "Gamblin' Man," is a nice original blues performance (the melody slightly evocative of Box Scaggs recording of "Someone Loan Me a Dime"), with a well-shaped, fiery guitar solo and a heartfelt, expressive vocal. Another fine blues performance is "Don't Turn Off The Light." There is also high energy blues-rock of "Kiss This World" with its swelling groove and the rock and roll of "Satisfied," with McKendree's rollicking road house piano in addition to Ellis' guitar. The one cover, Leon Russell's "Dixie Lullaby," sports more rollicking piano (and organ grease) along with some fiery Freddie King inspired guitar.
This is another impressive collection of music from Ellis whose playing shows him still to be a tone master and a fiery guitar slinger. His high energy playing is firmly backed by the terrific studio band. Ellis is also a most congenial, expressive singer and contributed some solid original blues on this memorable blues-rock release.
I received my review copy from Alligator Records. For those in the Washington DC area, he will be at Blues Alley on Wednesday January 17 and playing the Creative Alliance in Baltimore on Thursday January 18. Here is Tinsley from an October, 2017 performance. A fuller listing of upcoming shows is at http://www.tinsleyellis.com/toughloveshows.html.