Tinsley Ellis - Speak No Evil

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It's hard to resist buying a CD when the artist is standing there, waiting...  So, a few bucks and a heartfelt compliment later, I'm not just reviewing Ellis' newTinsley Ellis - Speak No Evil CD, but his autographed new CD.  Go me.

Speak No Evil is his 11th studio album, and it's chock full of 12 blues based rockers, each with varying tone or pace.

I won't go into describing blues musical forms, but in its modern state, it usually involves lyrics that are constructed around a particular phrase that it is the essence of the song's theme, with the remaining lyrics to support the idea and rhyme, of course.  Added to that is the guitar solo, which has been a required ingredient ever since the blues went electric.  As subject matter goes, it's the blues.  Not Taylor Swift pop.

At its best, blues based songs reach for a certain feeling that is shared between the lyric and whatever instrumental outworking launches from it.  Ellis has no problems finding phrases, and he's never shy about launching a solo. 

The CD starts well enough with "Sunlight of Love," setting the tone with a wah pedal-laden rocking outing.  "Slip and Fall" harkens back to the days when FM radio played music that 20 years later, who woulda guessed, would be known as "classic rock."  If there was a single from the CD, that would be it.

The title track is one of the best here, where pretty much everyone should be able to relate both lyrically and musically:

Words thrown out in anger always come back to haunt you

once they go they don't return

talk is so hard to undo

so speak no evil; evil will come back to you

"It Takes What it Takes" seems sequential with perhaps the consequences of speaking evil: love gone wrong.  "The Other Side" follows up with a lyrical and sonic vengeance:

Since you won't be around much longer, let's just plan to meet up on the other side.

This is in turn is followed by another relationship at odds lyric, this time with a Cream-like riff. 

It seems like in the day time we're so much at stake, i's safer in the nighttime, in the darkness where you can hide. The night is easy; the day is the hardest part.

And so it goes.  The first six songs seem stronger than the remainder lyrically, but Ellis' guitar is exceptional throughout.  He makes good use of effects pedals, and I can't help but wonder if he comes to a sound then develops a lyric that will fit the mood of the piece.  In any case, he makes it seem so easy.  

Suggested Tracks: "Speak No Evil," "The Other Side," "The Night is Easy"

Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

(Note: Using the Rolling Stone Record Guide criteria, it should be very rewarding to fans of a particular style.)

Selected tracks can be heard on Ellis' MySpace page.

2 comments :

  1. This guy is truly talented. One of the best blues / rock musicians I have ever heard or seen. "Feelin' No Pain" off of Hell or Highwater is one of the best blues tunes you will ever hear. It really delivers the pain..

    Ellis is awesome.

    Phil Lyons, Spring Tx

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  2. Saw him in concert with Derek Trucks Band. Photos are at:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/29517758@N08/sets/72157622824926611/

    Thanks for posting!

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