If the blues is a powder keg of human emotions set to music, then Tinsley Ellis is holding the match, and he's taking no prisoners. A life-long disciple of fiery old masters like Elmore James and B.B. King, and consummate blues-rockers like Johnny Winter and the Rolling Stones, Ellis seamlessly merges the gritty, enduring traditions of urban blues with the edgy, uptempo power of rock and roll.
Ellis joins the Telarc label with the release of Hell Or High Water, a 12-track mix of gritty, guitar-heavy blues laced with generous doses of Memphis R&B and urban funk. More than just a vehicle for flashy pyrotechnics, Hell Or High Water also showcases the formidable songwriting prowess and seasoned, full-bodied vocal attack that have made Ellis a force to be reckoned with for almost two decades in the studio and on the road.
From the opening riff of the swampy title track, Ellis makes a clear and passionate statement about his roots in blues and rock—not to mention soul and R&B, thanks in large part to stirring backing vocals by Donna Hopkins. From there, he moves easily in a number of different directions, including the light-hearted honky-tonk shuffle of "Hooked," the smoky soul groove of "Mystery To Me" and the semi-acoustic bounce of "Love Comes Knockin'." Further into the set, he turns up the juice with driving tracks like "All I Can Do," "Love Me By Phone" and "Ten Year Day." And just when you think you might have him figured out, he closes with a rare glimpse of his softer side in a tender ballad called "Set Love Free."
On the other side of the mixing board in the Hell Or High Water sessions is veteran producer Eddie Offord, whose credits include Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes and 311, as well as Ellis' critically acclaimed 1994 album, Storm Warning.
Born in Atlanta and raised in South Florida, Ellis picked up the guitar as a youngster and gradually worked his way into the local club scene during his college years at Emory University in Atlanta. His earliest success came in the '80s with the formation of the Heartfixers, an eclectic bar band that embraced blues, rockabilly, R&B and vintage rock and roll. Despite regional success in the Southeast club circuit, he broke with the Heartfixers in 1987 after four albums and launched a solo career that yielded a number of well-received efforts, including Fanning the Flames in 1989 and Fire It Up in 1997.
Hell Or High Water—Ellis' tenth career album, his seventh as a solo artist and his first on Telarc—marks a new chapter in the Tinsley Ellis saga. Whether your tastes run toward old-school urban blues or guitar-heavy rock, Hell Or High Water tells the story with unbridled passion and unswerving conviction.