Tonight: Robert Ellis Releases Photographs, Up at Fitz

I honestly didn’t see it coming, folks. I’d crossed my fingers that one of this city’s current bumper crop of talented-as-hell country/folk rockers would finally break out of H-town and make their mark, at least in the wider indie world, if not on the cover of Rolling Stone or something, but I didn’t figure it’d be Robert Ellis that would do the trick.

And yet, here we are, with Ellis’s brand-new album, Photographs, streaming in its entirety on AOL‘s Spinner site, glowing writeups on Brooklyn Vegan, My Old Kentucky Blog, KUT’s site, and Paste, plus a mention on Largehearted Boy and a cool feature in American Songwriter back in May. In terms of Houston non-rapper musicians, at least, that pretty well qualifies as “blowing up.”

I mean, the guy’s great — he’s flat-out amazing, in fact, a hell of a songwriter who can seemingly play anything he wants and croon like nobody’s business. At his best (in my book, anyway), he’s that old-school country singer who’s playing up on the stage in some dimly-lit kicker bar, tugging at the heartstrings of grizzled cowboys as they cry softly into their Lone Stars.

And that’s actually kind of why his sudden prominence caught me off-guard. Ellis is so old-school he just plain doesn’t fit in the modern world of pop-country; musically, he’s from a different generation entirely, one that didn’t give a shit about money and wimmen and big trucks, back when musicians played country music because, well, it was the music they played, period.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my own copy of Ellis’s Photographs yet. [sadface] I’ve been listening to the stream linked above, though, and I’m pretty well bowled-over. The album’s a throwback in the best sense of the word, not merely pointing backwards but freaking living there, comfortable and perfectly at home. It’s dark and sweet and heartbreaking/broken, even on the faster, full-band half of the record, and throughout Ellis smoothly shifts between his delicately wry croon and a more impassioned, almost John Darnielle-sounding wail. It’s great stuff.

If streaming audio’s not your thing, btw, as I mentioned a while back on this blog, you can grab a copy of one of the tracks, courtesy of Ellis’s label, New West Records:

And, of course, you can also catch Ellis live & in-person this evening (Wed., July 6th) up at Fitzgerald’s, for his official album release show. He’s playing with Jonny Corndawg and Khruang Bin, both of whom I’ve heard good things about (esp. Corndawg; gotta love that name). The cover’s $10, and trust me, it’ll be well worth it.

While you’re at it, check out some of the local coverage of Photographs, written by folks much more thoughtful than me over at Houston Calling, 29-95.com, and the Houston Press. Then get on up to Fitz tonight…


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