“Red Clay Soul” by Tinsley Ellis is a fertile concoction of blues and soul that is as rich as anything the guitarist has put to tape.
Ellis is a Southern boy who was raised on a healthy helping of Ray Charles, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers. He returns to the music of his youth on his latest album, reaching back to the times as a kid when “Eat A Peach” was on repeat and he would play along the shores of rivers and streams, the red, sandy clay banks burying underneath his fingers and toes. Ellis has been a guitarist for 40 years and this is some of his most inspired playing as he taps into that musical current that runs from his past to the present, gaining inspiration from those timeless artists just as he did when they were playing the sounds of Georgia for the world.
What you hear when the needle passes through “Red Clay Soul” is the sound of absolute comfort. Ellis plays these songs like a town troubadour tells stories to captivated listeners at the local watering hole, they just come out of him. When you do something you love, it doesn’t feel hard anymore and you can tell Ellis loves the sound he has come up with on this set of songs. It just breezes right from his fingers into your ears and leaves you with not much to do except enjoy his creations. You can sense his excitement from the very beginning on the rumbling opener, “All I Think About.” His guitar bounces with the boogie-woogie of the piano and he lets fire a couple “WOO’s” as he delivers a spicy solo that can hardly keep from burning the whole place down. You can hear the grin on his face in the recording.
That enthusiasm serves the album well and Tinsley shines on a number of tracks. “Givin’ You Up” is a bright-eyed, blue-skied number that wouldn’t feel out of place on a later-day Allman Brothers Band album, Ellis’ sunny guitar shining through like rays of light through the swaying branches of a willow tree. The song was originally by Tinsley and Oliver Wood (of The Wood Brothers) several years after he was a member of Ellis’ band in the early 1990s and he adds his vocal and guitar talents to the song to the extended jam. The Georgian has a good balance of flavors throughout the 10 tracks and the sweet peachiness of “Anything But Go” and the guitarist’s succulent licks contrasts nicely with the gin-soaked desperation of “Hungry Woman Blues.” He even adds some Latin touches on the sultry “Estero Noche,” an unexpected stream of Baja blues that warms the soul.
“Red Clay Soul” is an impressive snapshot of an artist who has been playing guitar for most of his life and still has something to say on the instrument.
- Tinsley Ellis
“Red Clay Soul”
Release: June 3, 2016
Label: Heartfixer Music