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Saturday, January 18, 2014

ROUTES & BRANCHES
January 11, 2014
Scott Foley

Poor, poor americana.  I know of no other musical genre from which artists flee so insistently.  There is some time in nearly every americana artist's career when they deny being an americana artist, like Peter in the Bible who claimed not to know Jesus three times.  Robert Ellis cautions that Lights From the Chemical Plant finds him wandering a bit from the country settings of his first records.  Might be a fair career move, but other than a sharp new haircut-n-mustache combo, it still sounds like Robert Ellis to me.  Truth be told, like Amanda Shires or maybe Jonny Fritz, Ellis doesn't dwell in traditional territory lyrically, and the arrangements can be a bit less direct at times.  But why not just put out the music, damn the labels to which folks might attach it?  Robert Ellis is a steady lyricist and a vocalist whose voice will always betray his origins, no matter what his press tells us.  I don't know that Joe Henry (to whom I might compare some of Ellis' work) ever told us where to shelf his music, though he's dabbled in everything from americana to rock and jazz.  Most worthy artists experience an evolution or a maturation during their career, and that's a welcome and a necessary step for songwriters like Robert Ellis.  No matter where you peg him, he's heading in the right direction, following a muse of his own. 

*  Mando Saenz, "Julia"  Watertown  (Carnival, 05)
*  Blue Rodeo, "Mattawa"  In Our Nature  (TeleSoul, 13)
*  Sturgill Simpson, "Time After All"  High Top Mountain  (Thirty Tigers, 13)
*  Fruition, "Mountain Annie"  Just One of Them Nights  (Self, 13)
*  Lynn Miles, "Million Brilliant"  Downpour  (Self, 13)
*  Jason Eady, "OK Whiskey"  Daylight & Dark  (Thirty Tigers, 14)  D
*  Rodney Crowell, "Every Night"  Let Us In Americana  (Reviver, 13)
*  Emily Barker & Red Clay Halo, "Disappear"  Despite the Snow  (Everyone Sing, 08)
*  Hard Working Americans, "Blackland Farmer"  Hard Working Americans  (Melvin, 14)
*  Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Three Days Straight"  Eternal & Lowdown  (Rounder, 01)
*  Amy Black, "Alabama"  This Is Home  (Reuben, 14)
*  Will Kimbrough, "Dance Like Grownups Dance"  Sideshow Love  (Self, 14)  D
*  Jason Isbell, "Tour of Duty (live)"  Live From Alabama  (Lightning Rod, 12)
*  Kristina Murray, "Lights Out For the Lonesome"  Unravelin'  (Self, 14)  C
*  Blitzen Trapper, "Valley of Death"  VII  (Sub Pop, 13)
*  Sons of Bill, "Life In Shambles"  Sirens  (Thirty Tigers, 12)
*  Arliss Nancy, "Out Alive"  Wax Packs Series 1  (Wax Packs, 14)  C,D
*  Devil Makes Three, "Worse or Better"  I'm a Stranger Here  (New West, 13)
*  Pines w/Trampled By Turtles, "Highwayman"  single  (Self, 13)
*  Rosanne Cash, "50,000 Watts"  River & Thread  (Blue Note, 14)
*  Truckstop Darlin', "Sad Sweet Songs"  Hope & the Heart It Breaks  (Self, 12)
*  Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, "North"  South  (File Under Music, 14)
^  Robert Ellis, "Pride"  Lights From the Chemical Plant  (New West, 14)
*  Rosie Flores, "Blunderbuss"  Rockin' Legends Pay Tribute to Jack White  (Cleopatra, 13)
*  Howe Gelb, "Vortexas"  Coincidentalist  (New West, 13)
*  Malcolm Holcombe, "Trail o' Money"  Down the River  (Gypsy Eyes, 12)
*  Rod Picott, "65 Falcon"  Hang Your Hopes On a Crooked Nail  (Welding Rod, 14)  D
*  Drew Kennedy, "Poet at 33"  Wide Listener  (Self, 13)

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