Conqueroo

Conqueroo

by William Lee Ellis

CD

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Overview

Conqueroo

Three years after William Lee Ellis gained the attention of the world's blues community with his stellar third album and Yellow Dog Records debut, The Full Catastrophe, he arrived on a horse of a different color. Conqueroo is a record steeped deeply in all of the traditions that have informed Ellis' musical, spiritual, and emotional lives: folk, bluegrass, prewar blues, ragtime, country gospel, and classical, and yet what comes from his guitar and voice is entirely his own. Sure, one can hear Gary Davis and Lonnie Johnson in his playing, but one can also hear Clarence White, Merle Travis, and most of all, Ellis himself in his playing. Unlike the revivalists out there, Ellis is a stylist, an original guitarist and songwriter who understands that tradition is the source of the flame but is never the fire itself -- that comes from the heart of the artist. Ellis' songs are deeply spiritual and full of street and amorous grit. Using his acoustic guitar and soulful baritone voice, he talks about virtues and vice as blessings that are forever linked inside the human heart and in the soul of the Divine. On an a cappella gospel tune such as "It's My Religion Too" with the soul/gospel quartet the Masqueraders, the mood is sacred; on the gutbucket slide blues of "Never Be the Child," it's profane; on the gorgeous folksy country of "Where Would I Go?" with father Tony's violin (the elder Ellis was a member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys and named William after his old boss), it's one of forlorn love; and on the spooky "Northern Lights," with the bowed bass of Larry Nager, the feel is an old Scottish love ballad of the moors, but it's far more lonesome -- and menacing. There's solid bluegrass in the mix too on "King of the Mountain," but it's graced and greased with Delta blues in its turnarounds, and then, on an amazing read of Chuck Berry's "Maybellene," Ellis re-reads the original through the blues via the rag styles of Rev. Davis and Tampa Red. The tune is a duet with Reba Russell, and Nager keeps it rooted into its changes while Ellis runs all over its body with his guitar. The other duet is with Susan Marshall on "Honey Take Your Time," a bawdy little love song that makes the feet shuffle and the backbone slip involuntarily. The last three tracks -- "Rider on Your Soul," "Black Sea Blues," and "Rose Hill" -- are Ellis ripping it up on lap and steel guitars, playing the living hell out of it, singing about damnation and deliverance as if the Devil arrived on the doorstep at the same time Jesus did and you have to choose between them though they look the same. While The Full Catastrophe was a brilliant blues record and deserved its accolades, Conqueroo is in an entirely different league. This is a fully realized project that distills American music to its essence and creates something from them that bears Ellis' distinct image. Not since the late John Campbell has there been a blues talent so original, though his vision is not as haunted or hunted. Ellis proves that not only are the blues not dead or a relic, but a morally instructive, sensually delightful art form whose possibilities have only begun to be mined for what they might contain for the future. This disc deserves the W.C. Handy Award for Album of the Year in 2003.

Product Details

Release Date: 08/26/2003
Label: Yellow Dog Records
UPC: 0823800104323
catalogNumber: 21043
Rank: 274635

Album Credits

Performance Credits

William Lee Ellis   Primary Artist,Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Steel Guitar,Vocals,Lap Steel Guitar
Masqueraders   Vocals
Tony Ellis   Violin
Susan Marshall   Vocals
Rebecca Evans Russell   Vocals
David Cowboy Sanders   Vocals,Group Member
Robert Tex Wrightsil   Vocals,Group Member
Rick Steff   Mellotron
Larry Nager   Bass,Dobro,Mandolin,Washboard,Bowed Bass
Tony Ellis   Violin

Technical Credits

Masqueraders   Arranger
Jeff Powell   Engineer
David Cowboy Sanders   Arranger
Robert Tex Wrightsil   Arranger
Dawn Hopkins   Engineer
Larry Nager   Producer
Jeff Lekson   Engineer
Jim Leech   Engineer
Tommy Foster   Contributor,Art Direction
Tommy OGara   Paintings

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