Ice Cream In Hell
Tinsley Ellis is no stranger to the
blues world, with Ice Cream In Hell
(Alligator) being at least his 18th album in a
career of more than 30 years. The Georgia native
has always leaned a bit to the rock side of
blues, with guitar influences from Texas legends
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddy King, Gatemouth
Brown, and more. He's joined here by a power
trio of Kevin McKendree (keyboards), Steve
Mackey (bass) and Lynn Williams (drums), along
with a couple of horn players (Jim Hoke, Quentin
Ware) checking in on two numbers. I'm thinking
that Ice Cream In Hell has a little more
blues content than past albums, but I'll let you
make your own judgment.
All songs here are Ellis originals, with the
mid-tempo blues shuffle "Last One To Know"
giving all band members and guests a chance to
show their stuff, with the individual parts
melding together very well. Ellis shines on
guitar on the up-tempo funky number "Don't Know
Beans," on which he denies what his woman thinks
she saw .... "... You don't know beans, you don't
know me at all ..." A fun tune from start to
The title cut is an outstanding mid-tempo blues
in which Ellis warns that same woman that, "...
When they serve ice cream in hell, I'm going to
take you back ...," before attacking with a
monster guitar solo. The always excellent McKendree gets to shine on piano on the up-tempo
shuffle, "Foolin' Yourself," before Ellis pours
out the pain in his soul on the slow blues "Hole
In My Heart."
Ellis goes into rapid fire mode on guitar on the
up-tempo blues "Sit Tight Mama." before slowing
the tempo just a bit while firing off some heavy
guitar licks on "No Stroll In The Park,"
complemented by fine organ accompaniment from McKendree. The latter also gets a big part in
"Evil Till Sunrise," on which Ellis finally
realizes that he needs to take everyone's advise
and change his ways while also working in some
funky guitar effects.
We get another batch of scorching guitar mixed
into the mid-tempo "Everything And Everyone,"
highlighted by Williams' slightly offbeat
drumming. One of the better cuts comes next with
the drivin' blues shuffle "Unlock My Heart,"
with echo behind Ellis' vocals and nice piano
from McKendree. Ellis wants to be rid of his
mean-hearted woman because she's doing him no
good. "... You're drinking liquor like water,
you're the talk of the neighborhood ..."
Wrapping it up is a number that shows why Ellis
can't leave that woman, a slow blues on which he
tells her that "Your Love's Like Heroin."
He thought he could control the love, but it's
got a death grip on him. Lots of mournful blues
guitar here from Ellis as he also pours out
the pain in his heart that this love has caused
Ice Cream In Hell is just another in a
long line of great releases by Ellis. Maybe it's
recency bias, but right now Ice Cream In Hell
is zooming to the
top on my list of Tinsley Ellis. Recommended.
--- Bill Mitchell