Once, while portraying the host of a music mockumentary, Monty Python's Eric Idle quipped that "the blues is a black music played mostly by whites." As time marches on, the kernel of truth in the joke grows more obvious. The blues these days rides more and more on the shoulders of the rock music it helped spawn -- music made by performers like Tinsley Ellis. Balls-out blues rock is the calling card of some, but this Atlanta axemeister's originality stands out. A safe bet with any Ellis jam is that the sound, feel, and approach to his solo won't resemble the one that preceded it. Ditto for the tunes, as Ellis moves from dark and moody numbers to extroverted rockers, by way of post-Stevie Ray shuffles.
His recent release, Highwayman, marks a refreshing move away from well-intended but ultimately tepid attempts to exploit his vocalizing with a Clapton-like pop package, returning to what the man does best. That would be putting the guitar pedal to the metal.