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Tinsley Ellis - Speak No Evil

Alligator Records

Blues is a vast genre offering something for everyone, and if you like a little hard rock in your blues, Tinsley Ellis is your man. As I listen to the opening cut, ‘Sunlight Of Love’ I’m reminded of Ernie Isley’s Hendrix influenced guitar playing except Tinsley Ellis brings a southern rock flavor to the party. The wah-wah pedal combined with the other audio effects on the guitar successfully capture that familiar old psychedelic 70’s sound, except here it’s delivered with a blues twist. The modulation just before the solo on this first cut is very effective, in fact the arrangements are very strong on all the songs here. On the whole, Speak No Evil is an album for those who like powerful blues influenced guitar-rock, and there’s a certain nostalgic feel to some of these songs that will appeal to many music lovers.

The second track, ‘Slip And Fall’, starts off sounding a bit like ZZ Top and has a chorus that harkens back to the music of Bad Company. On ‘Speak No Evil’ Ellis uses a slightly mellower guitar tone and disperses tasty licks in between the vocal passages in the manner of a seasoned bluesman. He uses a similar guitar tone on ‘It Takes What It Takes’, a soulful song with an R&B feel which features cool little guitar harmony lines. The guitar soling here is very melodic and crisp, and the addition of conga here was a great idea.

‘The Other Side’ is anchored by a great lower-middle register guitar riff during the verses and in true trio format form, the bassist “The Evil One” and drummer Jeff Birch step up and drive the groove when Tinsley takes off. I love the restraint of ‘The Night Is Easy’ and this is maybe the most emotionally charged vocal by Ellis on this album.

Southern Rock fans will really dig ‘Left Of Your Mind’, while ‘Cold Love, Hot Night’ will please anyone who digs the work of John Hiatt. It has that same kind of catchy chorus and rootsy feel.

The song ‘Amanda’ makes me think of the Hendrix album, ‘Cry Of Love’ (that was the album released in 1971 after his death), especially the guitar tone. This song rides on “The Evil One’s” perfect bass part allowing Tinsley to really cut loose on the guitar.
The sustaining, compressed guitar tone on ‘Loving For Today’ works well on this catchy love ballad, which is slightly reminiscent of Clapton & Crays ‘Old Love’. The next song has the somewhat amusing title, ‘Grow A Pair’, and is about a man stepping up to the plate and facing his challenges and is another strong vocal performance by Ellis.

I love playing blues instrumentals on my radio program, and I know my listeners will love the last track, ‘Rockslide’, a foot-stomping slide guitar extravaganza that rocks from start to finish.

Keyboardists Kevin McKendree and Pete Orenstein both compliment their front man and seem content in their role of adding color to the arrangements. This is the kind of expert accompaniment a guitar-slinger longs for.

If you dig Robin Trower, Mick Ralph from Bad Company, the modern Buddy Guy, Tommy Castro or even George Throrogood, you’ll probably really like this artist and this album. This is full bore blues-rock, written and performed by an artist who has something to say and who says it with authority.

Reviewer Bruce Williams is seasoned Blues musician (Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz and The Chicago Fire, Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, Mark Hannon Blues Band). He learned the blues from some of Chicago’s masters and has shared the stage with legends such as Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Sammy Lawhorn, Hound Dog Taylor and Jimmy Johnson. His band appears at clubs and festivals throughout the Midwest. He hosts a weekly radio program on WRLR FM Public Radio and produces music out of his home based Highland Lake Records Studio.

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