Tinsley Ellis brings his best to Tahoe’s Crystal Bay

Tahoe Onstage
Midnight Blue in the Red Room: Tinsley Ellis.
Tim Parsons/ Tahoe Onstage

Tinsley Ellis played every song as if it was his last during a long-awaited performance on Friday in the Crystal Bay Casino.

“I hope I don’t have to wait another three and a half years before I play here again,” the Atlanta bluesman said before his encore.

Ellis has always been a fan of the Red Room, which he calls a great little blues club. And while the venue usually gets the spillover crowd from Crown Room shows, the audience on this night came out to see Ellis, who has released three albums since his last performances here in Summer 2013.

Ellis’ fans, who packed the venue, were treated to the new stuff and material from his entire recording career, which began in the late 1980s. A highlight was the haunting blues anthem “The Last Song,” which Ellis hadn’t played at Tahoe in a decade.

Tim Parsons / Tahoe OnstageNot merely prolific, Ellis is a superb songwriter. His musicianship on the guitar is what makes his live performances drop the jaws of grinning concertgoers. The calmly delivered licks come in bright, crisp notes, twangy slide and distorted wah-wahs.

While most of people in the packed Red Room danced and nodded their appreciation, an exuberant man shouted, “Freebird!”

“You’ve got to pay for your bird like everybody else, buddy,” Ellis joked back.

It was a Thanksgiving weekend treat, to be sure.

Erik “Jazzy Skins” Kaszynski, who made his second Red Room appearance, and Jonathan Holland provided the rhythm for Ellis, who broke from his record company four years ago in order to have control over his music.

“I am going to do a Bo Diddley song, ‘Detour,’ ” Ellis said. “My record company was skeptical about me doing this so I made my own record company, and then they were skeptical too,”

The only other cover of the night was Freddie King’s “Double Eyed Whammy,” from Ellis’ instrumental album “Get It,” the debut on his Heartfixer Music label, which came out just before his last Tahoe appearance.

Bound for California, Ellis is on his second West Coast road trip of the year. An appreciative crowd was happy he finally came by Tahoe this time.

Related story: Tinsley Ellis in the West. LINK

  • Tinsley Ellis
    Nov. 25, 2016
    15 songs, 1 hour, 45 minutes
    Crystal Bay Casino Red Room
    Cut You Loose
    Devil For A Dime
    A Quitter Never Wins
    All I Think About
    Detour
    The Axe Is Gonna Fall
    Midnight Ride
    Catalunya
    Double Eyed Whammy
    Don’t Cut It
    Highwayman
    Last Song
    Pawnbroker
    Encore
    If The River Keeps Rising
    Rockslide

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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