So today was a blues day. A blues day inside and a white snowy day outside, as we here in the northeast were hit with another snowstorm! s]Since it was a blues day, the latest release from Tinsley Ellis Midnight Blue was the album of the day. After listening and thinking about Tinsley I was trying to fix when I first discovered his music. I have his 1992 release Trouble Time and his 1994 release Storm Warning both on cassette, and I may have bought them at Tunes in the late 1990s. Not that it really matters, the important thing is that I’ve known and loved this great guitarist for a while now, and I’d put Midnight Blue right up there with his best work, which almost says is his 2004 release The Hard Way Anyway for those of you who don’t know Tinsley….
He was born in Atlanta in 1957, and grew up in southern Florida. He began playing guitar at the age of eight. Like many of us, it took the British to introduce him to the blues. Ellis listened to bands like: John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, the Peter Green-led Fleetwood Mac, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, and Cream, and then he moved on to the masters like B.B. King and Freddie King. From his biography at his website…..
At a B.B. King performance, Tinsley sat mesmerized in the front row. When B.B. broke a string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to Ellis. Tinsley’s fate was sealed; he had to become a blues guitarist. And yes, he still has that string.Read More
Tinsley moved back to Atlanta n 1975, (hey that’s when we were married and moved to Athens) So while I was busy getting an Education degree from the University of Georgia,Ellis was attending Emory University and getting a degree in history. While at Emory, Ellis moonlighted with the band The Alley Cats and then formed his own band The Heartfixers. In 1988, he started his solo career and hasn’t looked back. In his biography at AllMusic Steve Huey writes this about Ellis’ music…..
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. Ellis has been praised in many quarters for the relentless, storming intensity of his sound, and criticized in others for his relative lack of pacing and dynamic contrast (he’s also been dubbed a much stronger guitarist than vocalist). Yet no matter which side of the fence one falls on, it’s generally acknowledged that Ellis remains a formidable instrumentalist and a genuine student of the blues.
It’s that fiery guitar that I like, which is probably why I like his 1997 album Fire It Up better than The Hard Way. And the lack of some of those guitar riffs on The Hard Way may be the reason that I haven’t listened to Tinsley Ellis that much over the last several years, but with Midnight Blue I think that the Ellis I love is back!!
So here’s a slow burner from Midnight Blue – the closing track “Kiss of Death” As I listened to this track, I thought of two things; one was how musch I liked the presence of Kevin McKendree’s.Hammond B-3 sprinkled throughout the album, and the other was how much Tinsley at times sounds like his hero – B.B.King- and that, for me, is not a bad thing!!