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Hell or High Water

music reviewmusic reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Hell or High Water

Artist: Tinsley Ellis
Genre: Blues
Release Date: February 2002

Review by Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
4 stars out of 4

Tinsley Ellis comes storming back with a vengeance after his ill timed Capricorn debut "Kingpin" in the year 2000 didn't fare so well. The album had a poor showing in retrospect to his highly successful career. Capricorn closed their doors shortly after he released the album, proving there is a lot to be said of the age old adage "Timing is everything." Well with that history now written its time to write some more, and on a new page. "Hell or Highwater" is an authoritative answer to that one blemish upon his recording career. Ellis has never recorded a dud as far as I am concerned, and on this recording he really smokes it, telling all within listening distance that he is back. This is the first album for Tinsley on the outstanding blues and jazz label Telarc. Yup, it looks like Telarc roped in another ex Alligator Records alumnus. I really must tip my hat to those folks at Telarc, their aggressiveness in signing all the premier artists they can on a regular basis is admirable.

Get ready for some different sounds from Mr. Ellis this time around blues lovers. Hang on tight though, as he still rocks as he always has. He gives it the fiery axe treatment on the title track and opening cut "Hell Or High Water" and on "All I Can Do." Then a knock you on yer ass tune called "Ten Year Day" sets the record straight and gives notice that the man has never let up or left, the last outing was a mere anomaly. This album has a cool and calm rhythm and blues feel to it with some nice organ and piano to give everything more substance and feeling. Ellis has never lacked in emotion and feeling in his music mind you, he just takes those feverishly strong aspects one step further with some added taste. The closing track sounds like it belongs on a different album, what a change. "Set Love Free" is a lovely acoustic number with a "Ten Years After" 60's bluesy sound to it. Although it may come as a surprise, I think it's an excellent song showing how much he is capable of when he spreads his wings a bit.

When you get right down to it Tinsley Ellis has always has had the upper hand on his career and his music. This release is another strong testament to his resiliency and talent. Now listen up! Come hell or high water… if you love da blues as much as I do, you had better get this, got it?

1. Hell or High Water (Ellis) - 4:59
2. Hooked (Ellis) - 3:47
3. Mystery to Me (Ellis) - 5:36
4. Love Comes Knockin' (Ellis) - 2:21
5. Stuck in Love (Ellis) - 6:38
6. Real Bad Way (Ellis) - 4:00
7. All Rumors Are True (Ellis) - 4:11
8. All I Can Do (Ellis) - 4:08
9. Love Me by Phone (Ellis) - 5:21
10. Feelin' No Pain (Ellis) - 8:03
11. Ten Year Day (Ellis) - 4:39
12. Set Love Free (Ellis) - 3:00

Meet The Band:
Tinsley Ellis - Guitar, Vocals
Kevin McKendree - Organ, Piano
Kenny Kilgore-guitars
Phillip "Philzone" Skipper-bass
Scott Callison-drums
Donna Hopkins-background vocals



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