I’m hunkering down to get a bunch of non-bloggy writing done this week, but I wanted to tell you about the A+ album I’ll be listening to while I’m working — Lights From the Chemical Plant by Robert Ellis. NPR’s doing a First Listen right now, which is how I heard about it, and I’d recommend checking it out.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how Angel Olsen’s song “Hi-Five" plays with the notion of genre by bringing in contextual information that screams "COUNTRY," connecting her music to a style she might not otherwise call to mind. Ellis seems to work in just the opposite way. His voice and frequent pedal steel accompaniment establish a clear country sensibility, but he works outward from there, with diverse lyrical subject matter, a Paul Simon cover, weighty piano balladry and instrumental breakdowns (like the stunner in "Houston") that transport listeners to that swampy, primordial place where any instrument could conceivably jump in and anything can happen. Those moments of dark uncertainty are the album’s most exciting for me, but my favorite stretch has to be the outstanding guitar solo in "Still Crazy After All These Years," which will henceforth feel missing from Simon’s original. It’s that good.
Click here to stream the whole album (due out February 11), and listen below to standout track, “Only Lies.”