by Michelle Wilson of Rock Legends Photographers
It's indeed a thrill when Tinsley Ellis embarks on a short tour of his native Florida, and when one of his stops is at Terra Fermata, it's even better. Backed by bassist Jonathan Holland and drummer Erik Kaszynski, the bluesman wowed the packed house with his ultra-smooth guitar licks and seasoned songwriting skills. He has an uncanny way of making eye contact with the audience that is rare in most musicians but quite appealing. The 100-minute set was over in the blink of an eye and was chock full of Ellis originals and a few covers. Fans were treated to three guitar appearances in the evening rotation: a 1967 Gibson ES-345 (affectionately named "Big Dog"), a 1959 Rosewood Fender Stratocaster and a 1982 Gibson Moderne reissue used for slide, and oh, how he made them sing!
Opening with "Cut You Loose," "To the Devil For a Dime" and "A Quitter Never Wins," Ellis then followed it up with "All I Think About," the only track of the night from his newest record, Red Clay Soul. Also thrown in was a funky version of Bo Diddley's "Detour" and then "Midnight Ride," which, along with "A Quitter Never Wins," he had performed at the Blues Music Awards. The haunting instrumental, "Catalunya" juxtaposed with the fun Freddie King cover, "Double Eyed Whammy," rounded out the ES-345 portion of the set.
Switching to the Fender Strat, Ellis continued the stellar performance with a few more songs including the heart-wrenching "Last Song," keeping the enraptured crowd fully attentive, on its feet and loving every minute of it.
Now the quaint little town of Stuart, Florida has some pretty strict noise ordinances, but at 9:55pm, Ellis traded out his Strat for the Moderne, grabbed his slide, and said, "Can we play a little more? I think there's some laws in this town and we're here to break 'em!" On the evening prior, Ellis performed at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, Florida, and opener Damon Fowler got up and jammed with Ellis on a couple of Elmore James tunes including "Coming Home" and James' version of "It Hurts Me Too." "So pretend Damon is right here," joked Ellis, as he pointed to an empty spot on the stage, and then morphed into some killer slide. It was impossible not to dance.
Tinsley Ellis is definitely in the top echelon of blues singer/songwriter/guitarists, and it is easy to see why. There are many great players out there, but few possess the poise, grace and humility of a musician like Ellis, all of which contribute to being a great person as well. Because in the end, that is the most important element of all. Check out the links below for a fabulous interview with Ellis conducted by Michael Yanko along with a few songs from the show, a link to the full album of photos from Rock Legends Photographers, a link to my review at Ink 19 of Ellis' latest CD, Red Clay Soul and a link to the official Tinsley Ellis website.