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Farewell My Home

Tony Ellis

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Album Review

Like bebop and Dixieland, bluegrass often functions as repertory music. Straight-ahead jazz is full of artists who insist on playing the same beaten-to-death standards over and over, and there are many bluegrass musicians who have a similar mindset — only they'll give you yet another version of "Rocky Top" instead of yet another version of "Giant Steps." But Tony Ellis was never the sort of bluegrass musician who had a "warhorses only" policy. He's a prolific composer — in addition to being an excellent banjo player/fiddler — and he does almost all of the writing on Farewell My Home. The only song on this 23-track CD that Ellis didn't write is the traditional hymn "Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing; the other 22 tracks are all Ellis originals. Produced by Stephen Wade in 1991, Farewell My Home finds Ellis forming a duo with his son, Bill Ellis (who is heard on acoustic guitar). And this father-and-son team enjoys a strong rapport on tunes that range from fast and exuberant ("Wild Fox," "T Model Ford," "Red Dog") to contemplative and wistful ("Kate, Bride of Matt," "Straw Dolls"). One of the CD's most lyrical offerings is the title track, which Ellis wrote in memory of America's early Irish immigrants as well as those who starved during Ireland's tragic potato famine. The piece has a strong Irish/Celtic flavor, which makes perfect sense because bluegrass (like country and Anglo-American folk) is a descendent of the jigs, reels, and airs that Irish and Scottish immigrants brought with them when they moved to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. From the exhilarating to the reflective, Farewell My Home paints a consistently attractive picture of both Ellis the musician and Ellis the composer.

Biography

Born: 1939

Genre: Country

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Bluegrass and old-timey string band traditions are fused into the deeply personal solo banjo and fiddle style of Tony Ellis. A five-time recipient of composition awards from the ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers), Ellis was featured during a national Masters of...
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Farewell My Home, Tony Ellis
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