Tinsley Ellis — Winning Hand (01.12.2018)
Ξ A hard~rocking, high~voltage blues guitarist most often compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tinsley Ellis is hardly one of the legions of imitators that comparison might imply. Schooled in a variety of Southern musical styles, Ellis draws not only from fiery Vaughan~style blues~rock, but also Texas bluesmen like Freddie King and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, the soulful blues of B.B. King, the funky grit of Memphis soul, and numerous other electric bluesmen.
Born: June 4, 1957, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Location: Southern Florida
Album release: January 01, 2018
Record Label: Alligator
01 Sound of a Broken Man 4:52
02 Nothing But Fine 3:52
03 Gamblin’ Man 5:59
04 I Got Mine 4:14
05 Kiss This World 3:55
06 Autumn Run 6:12
07 Satisfied 2:48
08 Don’t Turn Off the Light 4:41
09 Dixie Lullaby 3:14
10 Saving Grace 8:55
Jim Hynes, Score: 86
• Tinsley Ellis marks his return to Alligator where he debuted 30 years ago with this fiery, guitar~driven effort, Winning Hand. Just last year, upon the release of his fourth album under his own Heartfixin ’label, we wrote “Today Ellis continues to evolve as one of the best writers and vocalists in blues.” While Winning Hand also features keyboards and production from long~time cohort Kevin McKendree, Ellis wanted to be sure he came with the incendiary guitar power that stamped his previous nine Alligator releases. “Guitar, guitar, guitar is what this album is all about” — Ellis used five guitars in all, as pictured and delineated by track in the liners, recording primarily with his 1959 Fender Stratocaster, his 1967 Gibson ES 345, a 1973 Les Paul Deluxe and a 2000 Les Paul Standard.
Despite the shift in label, Ellis kept the same unit he has consistently recorded with over the past several albums: Kevin McKendree and the rhythm section of bassist Steve Mackey and drummer Lynn Williams. The sessions were once again done in Nashville at McKendree’s studio. Now well into his fourth decade of recording and performing, Ellis sounds as torrid and fresh as ever, wielding his axe with soul~drenched blues~rock across nine originals and just one cover, the Leon Russell/Chris Stainton “Dixie Lullaby.”
• Ellis begins with the funky, wah~wah driven “Sound of a Broken Man” featuring string bending notes and swirling organ of McKendree. Following the shuffle “Nothing But Fine” is perhaps the album’s best track, the slow~simmering blues of “Gamblin’ Man” whose the line “winning hand” gave the album its title. His slow, spiraling, piercing solo underpinned by McKendree’s electric piano is as representative of Ellis’ signature guitar style as any passage on the disc. The album continues to unfold in alternating up~tempo rockers and slower ballads like the melodic “Autumn Run.” “Satisfied’ is straight~ahead rock n’ roll, featuring McKendree’s boogie~woogie piano. The band comes off that rouser with another melodic turn on “Don’t Turn Off the Light.” The album closes with epic slow molten guitar in “Saving Grace,” as pure a blues cut as any here, with an equally anguished vocal.
• Ellis seems determined to show us that, in baseball parlance, he has lost nothing on his fastball. If you moved away from Ellis after his Alligator years, you’ll find him as vital as ever — and he’s a stronger songwriter and better singer now. You should also revisit his work on all four of his own Heartfixin’ releases. Not only is Ellis a master guitarist, he’s one of the most complete blues artists we have today. • http://www.elmoremagazine.com/
“Winning Hand” by Tinsley Ellis
Article by Joey Nettleman
• Here in my ninth year as a Blues aficionado, I marvel at the artists I have yet to discover. Tinsley Ellis has a 30 year career in the Blues and just released his 19th album (the fifth in five years!), returning to his home at Alligator Records from his own label “Heartfixin.” The result is an excellent rocking blues album with such an emphasis on electric guitar that the liner notes say which of his five favorite classic guitars is featured. He is ably assisted by veteran keyboardist (and co~producer) Kevin McKendree, well known to Delbert McClinton fans like me. Steve Mackey on bass and Lynn Williams on drums complete the lineup.
• The CD has 10 tracks, nine originals and one cover. Leading off, we have “Sound of a Broken Man” lamenting lost love with a good beat and some “wah~ah” on the guitar solo. Second is “Nothing but Fine” a good toe tapper about newfound love. “Gamblin’ Man” is next, giving us the title (in the lyrics) and a slower, Chicago~style beat. “I Got Mine” is fourth with Tinsley professing his love for his woman, and a great guitar riff at the end. On to “Kiss the World,” a hard edged lament about a failure to recover lost love. “Autumn Run,” at sixth place, is the softest and moodiest song, with more good solo work at the end. Seventh we have “Satisfied” with some heavy keyboard work like Jerry Lee Lewis” and a fast tempo. Next is “Don’t Turn Off The Light,” another anguished tune about lost love. The sole cover is Leon Russel’s “Dixie Lullaby” ably covered by Ellis and McKendree`s piano work. We finish up with the longest track “Saving Grace” (8:49) with more great guitar work.
• Last year Tinsley Ellis came to Workplay and I missed it, a mistake I won`t repeat! This is a fine album top to bottom and well worth adding to one’s blues collection. I can’t wait to listen to his earlier solo CDs, and his work with the “Heartfixers.” Maybe his new tour will bring him here (from Atlanta)! • https://www.magiccityblues.org/
• Ellis je odhodlán ukázat nám, že v baseballovém jazyce nic neztratil na svém fastballu. Pokud jste se po éře desek pro Alligator někam přestěhovali, zjistíte, že je stejně tak vitální a důležitý jako vždy byl — a teď je navrch silnější skladatel a lepší zpěvák. Měli byste se také vrátit k jeho práci na všech čtyřech vydáních pro vlastní label Heartfixer Music (od r. 2013: Get It!, Midnight Blue, Tough Love, Red Clay Soul). Nejenže je Ellis stále mistrovský kytarista, je to jeden z nejkomplexnějších bluesových umělců, jaké dnes máme.
• Ellis seems determined to show us that, in baseball parlance, he has lost nothing on his fastball. If you moved away from Ellis after his Alligator years, you’ll find him as vital as ever — and he’s a stronger songwriter and better singer now. You should also revisit his work on all four of his own Heartfixin’ releases. Not only is Ellis a master guitarist, he’s one of the most complete blues artists we have today.
Tinsley Ellis — Winning Hand (01.12.2018)