After a pair of solid releases that established Robert Ellis as an eccentric singer/songwriter with a traditional country foothold, his new self-titled LP is as definitive and weirdly beautiful a statement of defiance as you’d expect from a guy whose primary touchstones are Paul Simon and Randy Newman, as opposed to Townes Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker. Perhaps that’s why the two best tracks on a uniformly great record—the structurally sophisticated yet effortless opener “Perfect Strangers” and the brooding, soulful “California”—are keyboard-based. Already an acknowledged ace on guitar at 27, Ellis has been reacquainting himself with the keys over the last few years. Ellis will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on him.
Ellis: I’m a huge fan of jazz music. When I’m home, it’s just about all I practice. I and the guys in my band usually travel with a few arch top or Django guitars so that when we are on the road we can play tunes in the green room or at the hotel after the show. Our interests range from straight ahead to completely out. We spend a lot of time playing “free” together, and it’s one of the great joys in my life to be around a group of people that are into in that sort of thing.
A couple weeks ago my buddy Chris Ryan asked me to send him some of my favorite jazz music. He plays bass in Deer Tick and is a very dear friend. I made this little playlist of some things I like. There is no real rhyme or reason to it other than that I like all of these artists and tunes. I’ll keep adding to this as things come to me.