Fire It Up

Tinsley Ellis

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Fire It Up Review

by Cub Koda

With each successive album, Tinsley Ellis has moved further and further away from mainstream blues grooves and closer and closer to hard rock. While his guitar playing is as explosive as ever, it also remains unfocused, the end result being soloing that never reaches a musical climax, but is nonetheless played with an unrelenting energy that music fans who like their blues with rock muscles will appreciate. Tracks like "Diggin' My Own Grave," "One Sunny Day," "Soulful," "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," and "I Walk Alone" sound like they could be on anybody's blues-rock or roots rock album, and even legendary producer Tom Dowd can't do much with Ellis' consistently flat and generally lifeless vocals. Only the slow blues "Are You Sorry?," the soul ballad "Change Your Mind," the Buddy Guy/Junior Wells-inspired "Break My Rule," and the laid-back set closer, "Everyday," reach for higher musical goals than the mundane. Someone special to look and listen for on this album is former Booker T. & the MG's bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn. Duck appears on seven of the 12 songs, contributing simple, unobtrusive lines that speak in their own quiet way and underpin the tracks with a groove that's beyond rock-solid. This is a well played, well produced -- if unexceptional -- set of modern blues-rock, and fans of the genre will find much here to celebrate.

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