|MUSIC MART MAGAZINE
by TIM WESTLAKE
FEELS LIKE FAMILY CD/DVD
Ok, so make a list of all of the slide blues players that have rocked your boat, like Ry Cooder, Elmore James, George Harrison, Muddy Walters, Michael Messer, Son House, Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, etc... then add Lauren Ellis.
San Francisco born Ellis caught my attention with her first sensational self-produced CD, "Push The River". It took a mere ten minutes to realise that here was a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter who knows rock and blues inside out, and how to contribute to a tune from a range of impressive skills on acoustic, electric, Dobro, Baritone and lap steel guitars.
Songwriting is not just an art, but also a craft, taking years to perfect, on her new album; "Feels Like Family", Lauren has the freedom to create these compositions from the heart.
As with "Push The River", it's the song content that takes centre stage, and once again, her guitar work is a vehicle for the raw honey toned, husky voice that is delivered in a way it seems only those American female tonsils know how.
It's not so much the sound alone on this album but the feel and emotion of all eleven tracks. But if you're expecting an album stuffed with straight forward blues, this ain't it.
Recorded in Nashville with guest musicians that include Tony Joe White, bassist Viktor Krauss, Dean Parks and Kenny Malone, the songs portray that Lauren is not afraid to diversify from the sometimes, over used weary blues trail, with a song mix that often crosses into upbeat country blues territory.
Dry As A Bone is the opening track, well constructed with an uptempo shuffle beat, reflecting a personal break up, whilst backed with some raunchy slide playing. In contrast, the haunting intro riff on Shades Of Blue, is a piano dominated song with her warm, poetic voice to the fore.
Ellis moves effortlessly between styles and as you'd expect, there's more than one slow blues in here that shows her prowess. "End Of Our Line" is well suited to her throaty delivery, and also features some stonking lead guitar work, while her slide work is a tad grittier, and more aggressive on "Just to Be with You." The sleepy instrumental "Oahu Song" demos some fine acoustic slide/picking, while the rocking "Setting Son", sees the band really let go.
It still surprises me, but every now and again I talk to a loon who thinks the blues is, by definition, a morbid depressing experience, sure, most songs are related to heart aching break-ups, but this is one of the most refreshing blues based albums I've heard in ages.
Available as Dual CD/DVD featuring the entire album in 5.1 Multi channel stereo surround sound, plus interviews, photos and live work.
Performing Songwriter Magazine
Evocative of stellar craftsmen such as John Hiatt, Melissa Etheridge, and Bonnie Raitt, Ellis' compositions evidence a facility for hooks and melodies based as much in pop music as they are in the blues.
Blessed with an expressive, throaty rasp that's perfectly suited to her edgy compositions, Ellis delivers her songs with equal parts warmth and sass. Lending their services on the CD is a cast of impressive backers, including Roy Bittan (keyboardist for Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band), Neil Stubenhaus (bassist for Quincy Jones and Barbra Streisand), and Herman Matthews (drummer for Tower of Power). Still, whether offering up stormy blues rockers or spaciously arranged ballads, Ellis occupies center stage as vocalist, instrumentalist, and bandleader.
Songwriter's Monthly Magazine
This is a hard call. Is it Lauren's irresistible vocals that slide by with a gritty charm which win over the listener? Or, is it the supreme skill with which she wields her guitars and plays oh-so-tasty grooves that demand attention? Maybe you should just accept the fact that Ellis is all of the above and more. This is the kind of album that sneaks in almost without notice and leaves you standing in wide-mouthed awe. "All or Nothing" is perfect. Get this album.
Whether it's big, fat slide like on "Count on Me, " melodic soloing on cuts like "No Reply," acoustic country blues on "More Than This,"or nasty, biting funky blues on the same cut, Ellis comes through as a fine guitarist. That said, I've got to say how taken I was with her voice. A mix of folks like Marti Jones and Jennifer Warnes, she has a way of conveying a lyric that gets your attention.
Her singing, coupled with a great feel and killer grooves on pretty much every song, makes for a killer album.
There are lots of good musicians helping out that you might know, but for our purposes, let's mention Dean Parks. The veteran studio player adds great feel to pretty much every album he works on, and this one's no different. A true professional who plays with a lot of soul.
This CD should appeal to lots of folks. Fans of guitar will like it. Fans of really good singer/songwriters will like it. And plain old rock/pop fans should love it.