Part 89 of the No Stinkin’ Service Charge Blues Series
Tinsley Ellis – Janiva Magness – Friday February 16, 2018
On Sale NOW at World Records!
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.
Ellis unleashes a torrent of dazzling musicianship pitched between the exhilarating volatility of rock and roll and the passion of urban blues.
–Los Angeles Times
Alligator Records is pleased to announce the return to the label of Southern blues-rock guitar wizard, vocalist and songwriter Tinsley Ellis. His powerful new album, Winning Hand debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart and is available at World Records.
Although he jokes that he’s “the best guitarist you may never have heard of,” hordes of fans worldwide know Tinsley, who is among the blues world’s most revered, respected and well-travelled statesmen. Ellis is also revered as a guitarist’s guitarist, with famous friends including Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Oliver Wood, Jonny Lang and members of Widespread Panic calling on him to sit in and jam.
Since his Alligator debut 30 years ago, Ellis has become a bona fide, worldwide guitar hero, with an arsenal of molten licks, melodic riffs and rousing, intense solos. He is among the hardest-working blues-rock guitarists on the planet, gigging non-stop for over three decades. He has performed in all 50 United States as well as in Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Australia and South America, earning legions of fans with his guitar virtuosity, passionate vocals and memorable original songs. “A musician never got famous staying home,” he says.
Born in Atlanta in 1957, Ellis was raised in southern Florida. He found the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream, The Rolling Stones and Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. As he discovered the roots of these bands, he attended shows by B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and every other blues artist who came through town.
Already an accomplished teenaged musician, Ellis left Florida and returned to Atlanta in 1975. 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. After cutting a few Heartfixers albums for the Landslide label, Ellis was ready to head out on his own.
Georgia Blue, Tinsley’s first Alligator release, hit the 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. Tinsley’s next four releases — 1989’s Fanning The Flames, 1992’s Trouble Time, 1994’s Storm Warning, and 1997’s Fire It Up — further grew his fanbase and his fame. 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.
A move to Capricorn Records in 2000 saw Ellis revisiting his Southern roots. In 2002, he joined the Telarc label, producing two well-received albums of soul-drenched blues-rock. He returned to Alligator in 2005, releasing the Live-Highwayman, which captured the crowd-pleasing energy of his live shows. He followed it with two more incendiary studio releases, 2007’s Moment Of Truth and 2009’s Speak No Evil. He has since self-released four successful albums on his own Heartfixer label.
Over the course of his career, Ellis has shared stages with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, The Allman Brothers, Leon Russell, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and many others. Whether he’s on stage with his own band or jamming with artists like Buddy Guy, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi, Gov’t Mule or Widespread Panic, he always plays with grit, soul and unbridled passion. Back home on Alligator Records with his new album and a massive live tour in the works, Tinsley Ellis is ready to prove again that whenever he picks up a guitar, he’s playing with a winning hand.
Janiva Magness has got soul on her upcoming 13th album, Love Is An Army — and it was an easy place for the bluesy California singer-songwriter-guitarist to go.
“It’s a place where I live,” Magness tells Billboard about the 12-track set, which includes “Down Below” featuring Della Mae’s Courtney Hartman (watch the video premiere below). “We really wanted to lean into the Americana-soul element further than we had previously. I live in that place where there are fewer boundaries with regard to what I can and can’t do, what I’m allowed to do and what I’m not allowed to do. I’m really much more about serving the song, serving the music, and I love the idea of American roots music because it’s very broad. It’s a whole huge concept, and that’s very appealing to work in.”
Due out Feb. 23 and produced by Dave Darling, Love Is An Army — the follow-up to 2016’s Grammy Award-nominated Love Wins Again — is also Magness’ topical statement about the state of the world, but not explicitly naming names or pointing fingers.
“We wanted it to be very current,” she explains. “We wanted to speak to the pain in the world and what’s happening in this country — and in the world. It’s not just the U.S. It’s all over the world, the pain of the human condition that apparently we’re not going to escape any time soon. Music is the best defense that I have — it’s also the best offense that I have in my life. It isn’t my first rodeo coming to this party; I was the jailbait 13-year-old kid at the protest line in the 70s. But (music) is the strongest way, the best way for me to stand up.”
Many of Magness’ songs on Love Is An Army — which also features appearances by Delbert McClinton, Poco’s Rusty Young, Charlie Musselwhite and Cedric Burnside — deal with resilience in troubled times. “Down Below,” however, deals with a specifically troubled soul, and one who’s not likely to change any time soon. “It’s the story of a person who has an opportunity to be better, to stand in the light, but can’t,” Magness says. “They’re saying, ‘I love being here in your arms, but I can’t stay here. I’ve got to go back to where I belong, which is in hell, in the darkness. Where I belong is down below, in the pain.’ That’s a rough deal. I’ve been that person; Mostly I’m not that person now, but I’ve been that person.” Hartman, meanwhile, came to the track via a suggestion from Magness’ manager Jeff DeLia.
Magness begins her 2018 touring on Feb. 11 in Dallas, and she anticipates a lot of work ahead promoting the album. She’s also looking forward to taking the pulse of the “human condition” she sings about throughout Love Is An Army and feels a degree of optimism for the future. “I think the collective majority in the country, quite frankly, is mobilized in a way we haven’t been in quite some time,” she says. “I think that’s really true and really good to see. So that gives me great hope. I think the situation is looking to be pretty promising.”
You know by now that each year one blues artist in the world is honored with the top award – The BB King Entertainer of the Year. In all the years, only one woman received that award – Koko Taylor – ‘The Queen of the Blues.’ That is until one other woman was so honored – Janiva Magness.
Here’s “Gamblin’ Man” from the new release to let you know
why there’s all the fuss –
Listen and you’ll know why Janiva was honored with the top blues award – The BB King Entertainer of the Year.
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