William Lee Ellis
Guitarist William Lee Ellis has released three critically acclaimed albums over the past few years, but his latest effort, Conqueroo (Yellow Dog Records), is going to be hard to top.
Ellis, also the music critic for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, has taken all the variations of music that he loves (gospel, country, prewar blues, ragtime, and bluegrass) and combined it into a completely original, masterful mix of American music. There’s gospel with “My Religion Too,” with Ellis joined by the Memphis soul/gospel group quartet, the Masqueraders (who also appear on “How The Mighty Have Fallen”).
There’s a beautiful country tune, “Where Would I Go,” one of my favorite tracks, where Ellis is paired with his father Tony Ellis, formerly of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, on violin.
For some great acoustic blues, there’s “Never Be The Child,” where Ellis really tears it up on guitar. Another highlight is Ellis’ duet with Reba Russell on “Maybelline.” The Chuck Berry classic is nothing like its original form, with more of a bluesy, rag feel.
Though the CD is a mix of several musical styles, the influence of gospel music is the most prevalent in all of the songs (through the lyrics and performances), which is appropriate since gospel music could be considered a major source of much of modern music.
It doesn’t hurt that, in addition to being a first-rate songwriter, Ellis is one of the best pickers out there and that he is a soulful vocalist.
Fans of all kinds of music will find much to savor in Conqueroo. It is clearly one of the standout releases of 2003 in any genre of music. Go to www.yellowdogrecords.com to pick up a copy.
--- Graham Clarke
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