William Lee Ellis

God's Tattoos

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Glancing at the colorful sketch of William Lee Ellis that graces the cover of God's Tattoos, it would be easy to peg the singer as a bluesman. Surrounded by swirling tattoos, the singer glances down at the guitar in his hands, lost in the music that he's making. It's little surprise, then, that the opening cut, "Snakes in My Garden," mixes slashing slide acoustic guitar and drums on an uptempo blues that alludes to the first and most famous garden along with God's favorite whipping boy, Job. The following title cut, however, captures a more low-key vibe, which Ellis describes in the liner notes as a "rumba." "God's Tattoos" has a sluggish, meandering quality that gives the lyric an eerie undercurrent; when Ellis sings of how life's experiences leave everyone with "another one of God's tattoos," it all makes perfect sense. While Ellis hasn't written all of the album's songs, titles like "When Leadbelly Walked the River Like Christ" (an instrumental), "Here Am I, Lord Send Me," and "Jesus Stole My Heart" reveal a reflective soul. God's Tattoos never comes across as fundamentalist proselytizing, thankfully. Whatever the inner meaning of these lyrics, Ellis surrounds himself with good musicians, and together they create a wide variety of full-band arrangements, relying on acoustic and electric elements. God's Tattoos, then, succeeds by wrapping these oddly names songs in warm, winning musical packages.

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