Ellsworth - American Compost
Reviewed by Helen on 29th January 2007
I got a little unexpected present this morning. This guy, Ellsworth, who I've never heard of in my life before, sent his CD all the way from America. It came with nine stamps on it, in a pretty pattern on the front. That's effort. I was impressed.
I'm much more impressed now that I've listened to it a couple of times. This isn't emo, this isn't metal, this isn't indie, this isn't punk... but it isn't new. Remember all the cliches? The gun-toting, Texas drawl of the country music star? The Dolly Parton voice, the hat, the boots, the damn patronising patriotism of it all?
This guy is different. He's good. All-round good. This album made me look at country music differently. Country music can be good. Yes! ...I feel like I'm at some kind of AA meeting, actually... Yes people! Country music can be good!
I suspect this will be news to a lot of you. The genre's had some bad press, and I know I was behind some of it. Ellsworth sets new boundaries though. He draws loads of folk into the mix - enough to take the yeehaw! out of his album - and adds meaningful, well-penned lyrics that make you think. From the first song, Ellsworth sets his agenda, and that agenda is to make an absolute blinder of an album.
The best thing about this album is that all the instruments have been done by two people. And you can't tell. There are keyboards. You can't tell. It sounds bloody awesome. It's polished, it's completely un-irritating. The tracks all sound distinctive, and I can't actually pick my favourite, because... well, they're all good. This guy knows what he's doing, and it shows.
Mind you, Ellsworth should know what he's doing by now. His completely un-pretentious blurb informs me that that he's been doing his thing since the '70s - and the best of the '70s oozes out of this album. The man has a voice that sounds like the owner smokes 40 a day whilst simultaneously eating Cadbury's Caramels. Actually, he sounds a little like Phil Collins, and yet I remain wholly unannoyed. He even mentions 9/11 in the aforementioned blurb... and yet I forgive him. Ellsworth seems to me to be the kind of guy it would be nice to sit and have a pint with; the kind of guy your Dad's not really cool enough to be friends with. Ellsworth sounds like he should be a legend already. In fact, I'm still wondering whether Ellsworth already is a legend already, and that I fell out of the loop or something.
The tunes are fantastic - singalongable, lighter-waveable, head-noddable. Ellsworth and chum play super-hot guitar - light, heart-plucking, perfect solos, and melodic backing that culminates in a truly satisfying album. The slow songs aren't over-sentimental, the fast ones are sweet and simple, and there seems to be a perfect mix of instruments.
As for rhythm, this album has more than you can imagine. The last track, Madam Freud, has an oddly syncopated beat and a slightly tribal sort of feel - the sort of track that makes you dance around your room in your pyjamas like a little kid watching The Jungle Book for the eighteenth time. It's nearly eight minutes long, and I still can't believe I didn't realise it until I looked on the CD case.
I'm not used to writing reviews of stuff I like. I don't quite know what to do. How on earth can I sum up this review? This way. Watch your back, Bob Dylan, watch your back. You can run, but you can't hide.
I've always wanted to type that, and now I can.
P.S., you can't get this at Amazon - buy it at CDBaby. I really can't tell you how much I recommend this. Buy it for your Dad. Then steal it.
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