Tinsley Ellis – Tough Love (review)

Tinsley Ellis – Tough Love (Heartfixer Music) review

A near-perfect, enjoyably diverse, blues album

In a genre littered with color-by-numbers knock-offs, Georgia guitarist Tinsley Ellis has not only just released the best blues album of 2015, Tough Love may very well be the finest album of his long career.

The stand-out quality here is diversity.  The ten tracks (all originals) veer from the driving lead off, “Seven Years,” (featuring a killer guitar tone), the shuffling “Midnight Ride,” where Ellis duets with himself on guitar, with solos bouncing from one channel to the other, to the tasty dobro-infused “Give it Away.”  Where the guitarist really excels is on soulful numbers like “All in the Name of Love,” fueled by fine keyboard work from Kevin McKendree, and some of Ellis’ best singing on the record.

The slow burning “Should I Have Lied” features spine-tingling guitar licks, while “The King Must Die” gives a nod to Robin Trower in its psychedelic feel.  He saves the best for last in the brooding “In From the Cold,” which captures the sadness of B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” without being a direct copy.

With a song cycle that’s great from start to finish, Tough Love makes an early bid for best blues album of 2015.  —Tony Peters