Singer/songwriter grows killer country hybrids
On last year’s vivid The Lights From The Chemical Plant, Texas-to-Nashville transplant Robert Ellis showed off poetic American songcraft recalling James Taylor and Paul Simon, folk and classic country roots branching into pop-rock with a deep twang. His fourth LP takes that impulse further. “California,” about a modern Tom Joad leaving a wrecked relationship for her promised land, imagines Steely Dan covering Fleetwood Mac; “Amanda Jane” is a modified bossa nova with pedal steel. Ellis’ sly, unsparing wit still defines the music: “The high road is closed for repairs/And nobody cares about songs anymore/My enemies are passing me by,” he sings forlornly, string section in tow, on “The High Road,” an iconoclast sworn to that road anyhow.