Calgary International Blues Festival (2016)
"Blistering, inspired roadhouse blues and passionate Southern rock ... supercharged
guitar and gritty, soulful vocals." -Relix
"Atlanta's Tinsley Ellis sings like a man possessed and wields a ferocious lead
guitar ... one of today's premier blues/rock players." -Billboard
"Ellis unleashes a torrent of dazzling musicianship pitched somewhere between the
exhilarating volatility of rock 'n' roll and the passion of urban blues." -Los Angeles Times
Southern blues-rocker Tinsley Ellis may speak no evil, but he sings and plays with the
conviction of, as Billboard wrote, "...a man possessed." Over the course of 11 albums and
literally thousands of live performances, Ellis easily ranks as one of today's most
electrifying blues-rock guitarists and vocalists. He attacks his music with rock power and
blues feeling, in the same tradition as his Deep South musical heroes Duane Allman and
Freddie King and his old friends Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. Atlanta Magazine
declared Ellis "the most significant blues artist to emerge from Atlanta since Blind Willie
Since first hitting the national scene with his Alligator Records debut Georgia Blue in
1988, Ellis has toured non-stop and continued to release one critically acclaimed album
after another. Tinsley's hometown paper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calls his
music "a potent, amazing trip through electric blues-rock." Rolling Stone says he plays
"feral blues guitar ... non-stop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor's edge ... his
eloquence dazzles ... he achieves pyrotechnics that rival early Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton."
And now, following up on the success of his 2007 CD, Moment Of Truth, Ellis returns
with Speak No Evil. Produced by Ellis, Speak No Evil is the most guitar-driven album of
his career. It features his fiercest, most brutally honest and hard-hitting original songs to
date. The soulfulness and expressiveness of his guitar playing are ferocious and
relentless, but when the mood calls for it, can be gentle and melodic. The depth of Ellis'
songwriting, while not unexpected, is certainly beyond anything he's done before. Ellis
seems to be pouring his soul into each and every performance with unguarded, raw
emotion. With rip-roaring songs that are both poignant and humorous, Speak No Evil is
as wide-ranging and inspired a recording as Ellis has ever made, and one of the most
satisfying Southern blues-rock albums in ages.
Tinsley Ellis wears his Southern roots proudly. Born in Atlanta in 1957, he grew up in
southern Florida and first played guitar at age eight. He found the blues through the back
door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream, and The Rolling
Stones. He especially loved the Kings - Freddie, B.B. and Albert - and spent hours
immersing himself in their music. His love for the blues solidified when he was 14. At a
B.B. King performance, Tinsley sat mesmerized in the front row. When B.B. broke a
string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to
Ellis. After the show, B.B. came out and talked with fans, further impressing Tinsley with
his warmt and down-to-earth attitude. By now Tinsley's fate was sealed; he had to
become a blues guitarist. And yes, he still has that string.
Already an accomplished teenaged musician, Ellis left Florida and returned to Atlanta in
1975. He soon joined the Alley Cats, a gritty blues band that included Preston Hubbard
(of Fabulous Thunderbirds fame). In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist
Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become
Atlanta's top-drawing blues band. Upon hearing Live At The Moonshadow (Landslide),
the band's second release, The Washington Post declared, "Tinsley Ellis is a legitimate
guitar hero." After cutting two more Heartfixers albums for Landslide, Cool On It
(featuring Tinsley's vocal debut) and Tore Up (with vocals by blues shouter Nappy
Brown), Ellis was ready to head out on his own. Ellis sent a copy of the master tape for
his solo debut to Bruce Iglauer at Alligator Records. "I had heard Cool On It," recalls
Iglauer, " and I was amazed. I hadn't heard Tinsley before, but he played like the guys
with huge international reputations. It wasn't just his raw power; it was his taste and
maturity that got to me. It had the power of rock but felt like the blues. I knew I wanted to
hear more of this guy."
Georgia Blue, Tinsley's first Alligator release, hit an unprepared public by surprise in
1988. Critics and fans quickly agreed that a new and original guitar hero had emerged.
"It's hard to overstate the raw power of his music," raved The Chicago Sun-Times. Before
long, Alligator arranged to reissue Cool On It and Tore Up, thus exposing Tinsley's
blistering earlier music to a growing fan base.
Tinsley's subsequent releases - 1989's Fanning The Flames, 1992's Trouble Time,
1994's Storm Warning, and 1997's Fire It Up - further expanded the guitarist's hero
status. By now his talents as a songwriter equaled his guitar prowess. Guitar World said,
"Ellis stands alongside Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter, and that ain't just hype."
Guests like Peter Buck (R.E.M.), guitarist Derek Trucks and keyboardist Chuck Leavell
(The Rolling Stones) joined him in the studio. Producers Eddy Offord (John Lennon,
Yoko Ono, Yes) and even the legendary Tom Dowd (The Allman Brothers, Ray Charles)
helped Ellis hone his studio sound. Features and reviews ran in Rolling Stone, The
Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and
!in many other national and regional publications. His largest audience by far came when
NBC Sports ran a feature on Atlanta's best blues guitarist during their 1996 Summer
Olympic coverage, viewed by millions of people all over the world.
A move to Capricorn Records in 2000 saw Ellis revisiting his Southern roots with
Kingpin. Unfortunately, the label folded soon after the CD's release. In 2002, he joined
the Telarc label, producing two well-received albums of soul-drenched blues-rock, Hell
Or High Water and The Hard Way. All the while, Ellis never stopped touring. "A
musician never got famous staying home," he's quick to note.
Ellis' 2005 return to Alligator, the searing guitar-fueled Live-Highwayman, was the live
recording his fans had been demanding for years. Recorded at a packed club just outside
Chicago, the CD took Ellis' extended soloing and heartfelt vocals to staggering heights.
The Chicago Tribune said, "incendiary live performances, inspired, original and funky."
His return to the studio in 2007 produced Moment Of Truth, an album The Chicago
Tribune called "incendiary."
Averaging over 150 live shows a year, Ellis has played in all 50 states, as well as Canada,
Europe, Australia and South America. He has shared stages with almost every major
blues star, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Son Seals, Koko
Taylor, Albert Collins and many others. Whether he’s out with his own band or sharing
stages with major artists like Buddy Guy, The Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule or
Widespread Panic, he always digs deep and plays, as Guitar Player says, "...as if his life
depended on it." With Speak No Evil and continued non-stop touring, Ellis will bring his
monumental guitar work and intensely powerful vocals to rock and blues fans all over the
world, letting his songs and his guitar do the talking.