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A Rare Talent
on 3 March 2014
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.