Tinsley Ellis has been playing blues a long time, and during the course of his blues travels he has learned and absorbed from everyone he’s encountered. He is a walking, breathing, encyclopedia of blues guitar. The difference between Ellis and others is that he can apply what he has learned while still keeping his own blues from being cliche. Ellis is constantly touring, polishing his skills, and honing his craft. In short, he walks the walk.
Midnight Blue is Ellis’ second album on the Heartfixer Music label, following on the heels of the well received 2013 release, Get It. Personnel on this album are Tinsley Ellis – guitar, Kevin McKendree – organs and pianos, Lynn Williams – drums and percussion, and Ted Pecchio – electric and acoustic bass. Ellis himself does a fine job as producer keeping things uncluttered, and he wisely kept the raw edge to this music. Kevin McKendree, assisted by Niklas Rodewald, does an equally exceptional job with the recording and the mix, both having full sound, great texture, and a very pleasing “live” vibe. Very well done indeed.
The album opens with the acoustic intro to “If The River Keeps Rising,” which then erupts into heavy electric chords, imparting a grinding, gritty sound that is further enhanced by the impressive slide Ellis coaxes from his guitar. Other solid tracks include “Surrender,” which has a captivating touch of soul, enriched with layers of guitar that complement each other perfectly, giving the song a pleasant fullness. This is an excellent track. “See No Harm” is reminiscent of early Peter Green and later Eric Clapton during his From The Cradle period. This track is slow, with great vintage guitar tone, and the piano adds a touch of brightness and depth. “Peace and Love” has an alluring ’70s feel thanks to sweet Wah infused guitar, delicious organ stylings from McKendree, and a satisfyingly full sound overall. “That’s My Story” has a definite Judas Priest/ZZ Top ’80s feel to it, with the rhythm section kickin’ things up a notch, and Ellis enjoying the riffs he is laying down. The album’s closer, “Kiss of Death,” is a sonic wonder that is a really fun ride. This track is seven minutes of slow blues with Ellis offering up some of the best slow, blues basted guitar we have heard in a while.
Midnight Blue is a well produced, great sounding album. Ellis and company deliver superior playing at every turn. This one is definitely a keeper.