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December 2009

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Tinsley Ellis
Speak No Evil
Alligator Records

Tinsley Ellis

Speak No Evil is definitely one of Tinsley Ellis’ finest recordings for Alligator Records and the good folks at the Blues Foundation who handle the Blues Music Awards nominations evidently think so too --- Speak No Evil has been nominated for Rock/Blues Album of the Year. Sounds like a pretty good recommendation to me, so let’s give it a listen.

Tinsley’s guitar is on fire from the get go and his blazing guitar introduction for “Sunlight of Love” is just an indication of what’s to come. Love sometimes is a hard emotion to deal with and most prefer to do so privately. Tinsley’s message here is to come out of the shadows and step into the “sunlight of love.” Celebrate your love, it’s a good thing. “Slip and Fall” is up next and here we find that Tinsley is an all or nothing type of guy. “You know it’s on my mind…much…too much of the time…I just can’t put it down for too long…headed for a slip…but then I’m bout to fall!” He’s got a woman he cares about and is questioning the wisdom of letting her back into his life. Here’s hoping he’s not “headed for a slip.”

“Speak No Evil” finds Tinsley admonishing someone to think twice before speaking their mind. “No matter where I go…no matter what I do or say…somebody rather tell on me…when they ought to back away!” And Tinsley’s right, “words thrown out in anger…always come back to haunt you!” It’s better to think twice before speaking evil of someone.

“It Take What It Takes” finds Tinsley reminiscing about a relationship gone bad. “Takes what it takes…to be alone at night…takes what it takes…to make me feel all right…takes what it takes…to get over you…oh, baby…takes what it takes.” Tinsley admits to treating her badly, she really didn’t have an option to stay. Takes what it takes. This theme continues in “The Other Side,” a tune about another relationship about to come to an end. “Since you won’t be around much longer…let’s just plan to meet up…on the other side!” At least Tinsley appears to be facing the end with a clear mind.

I find that Tinsley’s next song, “The Night Is Easy,” took a little bit of time to wrap my mind around. The gist of the song is that people are suffering and the night time enables them to hide a lot of the pain going on in their lives, the day time doesn’t enable them to hide everything as easily. “The night is easy…the day…is the hardest part!” In our next cut, “Left of Your Mind,” Tinsley is in a one-sided conversation trying to find out what his woman is thinking about him and their relationship. “Think its time we face what’s been going on for days…we ain’t going make it…if someone don’t change their ways…I can’t tell if you are not…no matter how hard I try…now I ain’t trying…to treat you unkind…why don’t you say what’s on what’s left of your mind!”

“Cold Love, Hot Night” finds Tinsley at odds with a woman he loves. She’s a cold woman and he’s very hard to please, somehow he’s trying to meet her in the middle and make it work. “The hardest part of forgiveness…is probably just pinning you down…so hard to say we’re sorry…dogging each other round town…our love has got a sickness…and the reason’s plain to see…cold love…hot night…I can’t sleep…with this burning inside…cold love…hot night….again.” Communication is the key and it’s just not happening here. “I’ll be damned to watch you drive away…into this hot, Georgia night.” As much as Tinsley wants to work it out, she’s just not helping him do it.

“Amanda” seems to be a different story. “Amanda…I believe I’ll come back home…and see you…we both know its all wrong…I know you say…you got this special way to make me love you…reach out in vain…till you took your love from me…Amanda.” Amanda is a persistent one and Tinsley fell under her spell but still walked away. Memories of Amanda are haunting him but he can’t go back. Up next is “Loving for Today” and we find Tinsley trying to figure out another relationship. He knows he’s hard on the woman in question, but he loves her anyway. “Had such a hard time leaving…when you showed me to the door…had half myself believing, no…that you wanted so much more…so prove me to be wrong, girl…when I try to kiss your face…this is what I need, Babe…I’m loving for today!”

Speak No Evil closes with the rocking “Grow a Pair” and the instrumental “Rockslide.” “Too many days…and so many nights…now I need you by my side…you like water to a driving man…need a lot of courage…to take a chance…ain’t no use in just standing there…I won’t get what I want…till I grow a pair!” That’s life; you ain’t going to get what you want if you don’t grow a pair.

I go could on for paragraphs about the musicality of this disc by Tinsley. It features rocking guitar from beginning to end and is a dish best served loud. Tinsley’s at the top of his game and his supporting cast is up to the task.

Speak No Evil is a great disc and one you can pick up from Tinsley at or the Alligator records site as well. All I can tell you is to enjoy it, I definitely did!

--- Kyle Deibler


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