Ice Cream in Hell
Tinsley Ellis was born in Atlanta in 1957 and raised in south Florida. His friend’s older brother took them to see B.B. King and the performance inspired Ellis to become a blues guitarist. Ellis returned to Atlanta in 1975 and joined his first band with bassist Preston Hubbard who went on to play with The Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 1981 Ellis joined Chicago Bob Nelson to form “The Heartfixers” and they released an album in 1986.
Ellis signed with Alligator Records and released his solo debut “Georgia Blue” in 1988. Ellis recorded five more albums with Alligator before leaving. In the early 2000’s he recorded for the Capricorn and Telarc labels. Ellis returned to Alligator in 2005 and released three more albums including 2009’s “Speak No Evil” for which he received a Blues Music Award nomination. He left again and recorded four successful albums on his own Heartfixer label. It is often said “third time’s the charm” as Ellis returned to Alligator in 2018 to release “Winning Hand” described as his most passionate album to date by Rolling Stone Magazine. “Feral blues guitar…non-stop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor’s edge…his eloquence dazzles…he achieves pyrotechnics that rival early Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.” As a result Ellis received two more BMA nominations in the categories of Blues Rock Album and Blues Rock Artist.
This is Ellis’ 18th album. It is produced by him and the Grammy winning Kevin McKendree (Delbert McClinton). The band lineup is Ellis, guitars and vocals; McKendree, keyboards and rhythm guitar; Steve Mackey, bass; and Lynn Williams, drums and percussion. The horn section of Jim Hoke, sax; and Quentin Ware, trumpet, are featured on two tracks.
Ellis’ gives us eleven new originals. He opens with the Albert King inspired “Last One To Know” with a Stax-era horn arrangement. Williams lays down some solid beats on “Don’t Know Beans” with Ellis soloing in support of the song. The title track features McKendree on organ, as Ellis sings passionately “When they serve ice cream in hell, I’m gonna take you back”. McKendree plays both piano and organ on “Foolin’ Yourself” and “Hole in My Heart”. The latter again featuring the horns and a dirge-like solo from Ellis. “Ever since we’re apart I got a hole, shaped like you, in my heart”.
“Sit Tight Mama” is a houserockin’ Hound Dog Taylor styled romp with McKendree switching to rhythm guitar. Mackey’s bass is upfront on “No Stroll in the Park” with the lyric “you making me nervous the way you strollin’ around…like a city after dark, lovin’ you ain’t no stroll in the park” as McKendree and Ellis solo.Ellis plays both rhythm and lead on “Evil After Sunrise” and “Unlock My Heart”; the latter with an infectious vocal from Ellis and McKendree going wild on his eighty-eights. On the Peter Green flavored “Everything & Everyone” Ellis guitar sounds inspired by Carlos Santana. The closer is the evocative “Your Love’s Like Heroin” which just might be Ellis’ best vocal.
These are great songs. This new album from Ellis is a helluva sundae.