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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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By any standard Robert Ellis is a rare talent both as a performer and as a songwriter. His beautifully crafted songs are literate and melodic and play host to all of the emotions and frailties that the human mind is heir to while his deceptively simple blend of folk and country recall the work of fellow Texan, Townes Van Zandt.

Loosely woven around the themes of yearning, regrets, heartaches and memories, Ellis' songs are mature, poignant and beautifully arranged. Electric bass, keyboards and guitar, with occasional strings and solo sax, are all that are needed to complement his plaintive, pleading voice.

The scene is set by the title track, a bitter-sweet tale of two lovers, who live their lives from first meeting, to their inevitable end, entranced by the lights from the chemical plant while all about them the world is changing - only the lights stay the same. Swirling steel guitar, drums and strings give this song a dreamy, almost hypnotic effect.

But then, Ellis is a man who is lost to reality in "TV Song":

"I'm a gunfighter, I'm a bull rider
I'm the captain of some pirate ship at sea"

while wishing that his wife was less like the cold and heartless Betty Draper (from "Mad Men").

He is also a man who is aware enough in "Bottle Of Wine" to know that too much wine and a bag of cocaine are to blame for living in a cloud of regret:

"We get so sentimental, but it's only lust in disguise". A bar room piano and a haunting tenor sax complete this picture of despair.

But there is some hope and optimism in Ellis' view of the world as he sings in the tender love song "Steady As The Rising Sun":

"Oh, I may die in the fight
But with you at my side
That won't get me down".

Ten of the eleven songs on the album are written by Robert Ellis but there is a elegant cover of Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" with Ellis' voice conveying both darkness and longing and underpinned by some inspired guitar. There is sorrow and regret in the gentle "Pride" and and an offer of comfort in "Lies" while Houston" is an emotional farewell to the city in which he was born and which changed the way in which he saw his life:

"Oh, Houston this is not goodbye
You will be living inside my heart"

At the age of just 25, Robert Ellis writes songs of emotional complexity that are memorable both for their lilting melodies and their subtle lyrics. With his third album Ellis has grown in stature to become an indelible part of the Nashville scene where this album was recorded.
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Robert Ellis is a Texan who has moved to Nashville to perfect his art. On "The Lights from the Chemical Plant" he has largely succeeded. Your reviewer was drawn to this singer having listened to his scintillating cover of Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After all These Years" which could have been made for a country twang and steel guitar. The good news is that Ellis has much more to offer not least the sobering honesty of the excellent "Pride" which shuffles along with admirable clarity. Opener "TV Song" also stands out as a rolling country ballad referring to his love of the Goggle Box and Walt Disney. Yes it sounds trite but it works very well.

With former Tom Waits cohort Jacquire King at the controls "The Lights" never descends into the sentimentality or mawkishness that disfigures so many country albums. The title track for example is a lovelorn jarring song of Springsteen like imagery not least the observation that "Love like in a man's react/Constellations in the black/The lights from the chemical plant/Burn bright in the night like an old kerosene lamp" Its great stuff as is the beautiful country simplicity of songs such as "Steady is the Rising Run" which has mainstream Nashville "hit" stamped all over it. Alternatively the longest track on the album is the splendid "Houston" that shows an artist with crossover appeal to spare and an ability to reach out to rock sensibilities. If there is a problem on this album it is that the lyrics do need some work as there are a number of country cliches that are rolled out which frankly could be cut and paste from any Nashville source.

The good news is that this is Robert Ellis third album and like all great country singers he has a voice that emphasizes vulnerability and heartache. In relation to "Bottle of Wine" it harks back to his producers association with Tom Waits with a bar stool lament destined to be washed down with a Jack Daniels or two. All in all "The Lights from the Chemical Plant" is a desirable album from an artist who will no doubt go from strength to strength.
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on 2 April 2014
The new album from Robert Ellis moves away from the more traditional folk / country of previous album Photographs towards a smoother feel but this is in no way a bad thing. The superb musicianship, incredible vocals (with country twang beautifully intact), and evocative vocals are still to the fore.

I'm always of the opinion that an artist, or band, needs a great singer to elevate them above the norm. And Ellis is certainly blessed with a great voice. As mentioned, he has that country twang when he needs it, but also an extensive range and the ability to transmit emotion in a song the way Gram Parsons used to do it.

Guitar work from Ellis himself, and Kelly Doyle is sublime and complimentary and I was pleasantly surprised to see that drums were supplied by Josh Block of White Denim.

There isn't a duff song on the record and standout tracks are TV Song, the title track, Sing Along and by far my favourite Steady As The Rising Sun which is perfect in every way.

I haven't heard a better album so far this year and doubt I will. Hopefully he'll be touring the UK properly before too long.
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Now being in my late fifties, and having consumed music for well over fifty years, I tend to feel a little jaded about 'new music'. I am writing this in mid-July, 2016, and earlier this year, the British Phonographic Institute announced that in 2014, sales of 'old' music out-preformed that of new music for the first time ever. This seems to confirm my somewhat jaundiced opinion on contemporary music. Well, I am now going to contradict myself by offering up this twenty-something Houston, Texas based singer-songwriter, Robert Ellis as being a fine example of how good the music of the present day can be. Robert Ellis is a fine tunesmith, whose warm vocal tones share a commonality to venerable country singers such as George Jones, but his lyrical worldview is as up-to-the-minute as his age. 'The Lights From The Chemical Plant' is a marvellous, stylistically-varied set that has him shifting shapes and lyrical points of view with the deftness of a Dylan, but with the melodic grace of prime time James Taylor. Sometimes he sound more careworn and brow beaten than a man of his age should do; there is some deep soul-searching going on here, but there's wit and wisdom, too. He even takes on Paul Simon's 'Still Crazy After all These Years', and if not quite making it his own, does add something of a fresh take on it. Ellis is also a very accomplished guitar player, and his accompaniments go beyond variations on the three chord trick, incorporating deft finger picking and some Jazzy chordings here and there, which show his musicality is as finely-honed as his lyrical skills. This really is quality stuff, and this grizzled cynic doesn't mind nailing his colours to the mast in Robert Ellis' favour.
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on 16 October 2014
This is a strong singer-songwriter record. Backed by a band Robbert Ellis plays 11 clever songs. Once used to his ‘nasal’ way of singing you will appreciate the songs.

Robert Ellis plays mostly acoustic guitar. On some of the songs he plays solo on piano (‘Bottle of Wine’). There’s a sweet nod to Paul Simon by covering the song “Still crazy after all these years”. It’s not the best-of-the-best-cover or the most impressive one. No, it’s just a very sweet and lovely one, containing the atmosphere of the whole record.

It’s not a singer-songwriter rocking , up-tempo or ‘fast’ album. This record contains sweet, lovely, nasty and angry mature songs. The songs are sung and played in a tempo to make you at ease. The atmosphere makes you feeling comfortable. The drums are low-profile, songs are guided by a smooth steel guitar. It’s a wonderful record to play with the raindrops falling on your window.
Personal highlight is the strong ‘Only lies’ about a female’s friend her bad relationship with her man while she refuses to believe the things friends tell her. Ellis tells her “Only lies can comfort you / Only lies will see you through”. It’s his intrusive way of singing that makes the song very, very interesting and powerful.

Yes, it's a good one!
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on 27 May 2015
Heard the title track on a freebie cd and it got me interested.
Melancholy sounding guitar and voice with a lot to say about life.
A mix of folk and country. Although I'm not big on country - there's the usual heart and heartache and then some - the result here is different.
Maybe Mr Ellis succeeds not just because the finished article isn't over produced but possibly because we may recognise elements of ourselves in his songs.
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on 30 December 2015
Very good.
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on 30 September 2014
Probably the most overrated album I have bought this year, indifferent songs, mostly forgettable.
I can't see for the life of me what all the fuss is about.
I played it once, I won't be playing it twice.
Avoid, and buy Parker Milsap instead.
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on 20 August 2014
excellent
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on 2 October 2014
very good
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