JOHN ELLIS: RURAL
Review by Andrea Guy
Do you think that the world has had enough acoustic albums? After listening to John Ellis' Rural, you can answer that question with a resounding yes. Like "Silly Love Songs" you can never have enough acoustic music, especially when it is more than pretty guitar oriented songs.
Ellis who used to front the Christian band Tree63 is releasing his second solo CD. This album is a departure from his work with the band, which was more pop/rock oriented as well as his previous solo album Come Out Fighting which was nominated for "Rock Album of the Year," in 2010.
This album is simplicity at its best. John plays all the instruments, except for percussion which is done expertly by Barry van Zyl, the drummer for Johnny Clegg. This kind of bare bones recording doesn't always work, but it does for John. Listening to Rural makes you feel like you are right in the room with him.
The songs are a mixture of poetry and political. "Jack Kerouac's Blues" is the kind of angry song you'd expect to hear from Elvis Costello with a melody that speaks of that other Elvis.. "Landfall" sounds like it could have been written by Lennon and McCartney.
"A Good Idea At The Time," is one of the more pop sounding songs and one that anyone can relate to. It is a song about thinking back on past actions and their consequences.
Ellis definitely has mastered the art of songwriting. He has also reminded us what good political music sounds like, especially when most music is so sugarcoated these days. "We Are Not A Nation Yet" delivers a message about his native South Africa. "When most of us still cross our fingers, while the past still lingers." His delivery is passionate. It is obvious he has strong feelings about his country.
What makes this album stand out his John Ellis' ability to do those political numbers which will have you thinking while you listen as well as more light hearted tracks. Ellis delivers and album with great songwriting and musicianship. This album is more than just a collection of songs, it is a work of art.
It is hard to believe songs like "Three Day Rampage" can be on the same record as "Sure Enough." The latter song has John sounding quite a bit like Ron Sexsmith. "Aliena" is a beautiful song of reminiscence. A song of a girl gone by.
The songs on Rural are enough to put John Ellis in the same ranking as many of his influences, of which Sexsmith is one.
"Never been the band-aid. Never been hurt. Never had to bury my broken heart in the dirt. Never had to breakdown. Never had to weep. Never had a winter when you weren't there for me." These lyrics from "Never Had A Winter" illustrate how well John captures the feelings of a breakup. These aren't words that trivialize the relationships end, but rather illustrate the loss. The song is made better by being acoustic, because the lack of fancy production really brings out all the emotions.
Very few albums out there are of this caliber; fifteen songs that you will want to listen to without skipping over any. You can't say that for most albums.
Rural is an album that will renew your faith in music. John Ellis proves that without a doubt there is still music being made that is a feast for the brain as well as the ears.
This is one album that no music lover should be without. It is about as close to perfect as any album can be.