Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tinsley Ellis--- Get It! and Midnight Blue--- Album Reviews

Tinsley Ellis.  Hell of a name.  Maybe not Phil Villapiano or Biff Pocoroba, but it is doubtful that either one of those guys could play guitar like Tinsley.  Of course, Tinsley probably can't play football or baseball like either one of those guys, either.  Doesn't bother me as long as ol' Tinsley keeps putting out albums like Get It! and Midnight Blue.  'at Tinsley's got a touch, he has.

I first heard of him back in the late-80s when he signed with Alligator Records.  The label hyped him like he was the second coming of the blues or something and I have to admit to be pretty damn impressed.  He could sing and play guitar.  And he had the blues in his soul.  Electric blues.  Rockin' blues.

I lost track of him shortly after '90 or so, leaving the record business behind for more immediate concerns.  Occasionally he would put a blip on the radar--- enough so that I knew where he was.  Early last year, though, he blasted onto the scene with an instrumental album which caught me by surprise.  All instrumental, all the time.  When I was a kid, instrumental albums were all the rage, but that was back before rockers learned how to sing, I think.  Artists and groups like Duane Eddy, Dick Dale, The Ventures, and Floyd Cramer built musical dynasties on the backs of the instrumental, as have Ingwie Malmsteen, Gary Hoey, Buckethead, and Steve Morse in more recent days.  In those traditions, Tinsley pulls strings on a plethora of musical styles while featuring the guitar on a variety of levels, though always upfront.  No show-off stuff, though.  The music stands on its own and, yes, Tinsley bends strings and crunches chords, but that is what he does.  He spans decades in his choice of styles, preferring his own compositions over the standards with the exception of Sonny Thompson's Freddy's Midnite Dream and Ellas McDaniel's DetourGet It! is 50s-to-present in less than an hour, but not much less.  Tinsley gives you your money's worth and lovers of guitar instrumentals should love it.

The Tinsley I knew back in the 80s had a Chicago or Southern feel to most of his tunes, the guitar edgy, the band electric.  While the music was blues-rooted, the sound was rock.  He's still rocking, but there is more of a maturity these days--- more of the modern masters in his tones.  Surrender borrows as much from B.B. King as anyone, It's Not Funny from New Orleans artists such as The Neville Brothers.  Tinsley trips around the edges of soul and early R&B as well as decades of blues and rock to get the mix on Midnight Blue.  Ten original tracks, all with plenty of guitar and Tinsley's patent vocals.

Get It!--- Production: A-.  Performance: A-.  Choice of Material/Songwriting:  B.

Midnight Blue--- Production: A.  Performance: A.  Songwriting: A-.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

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