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God’s Tattoos

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Album Review

Glancing at the colorful sketch of William Lee Ellis that graces the cover of God's Tattoos, it would be easy to peg the singer as a bluesman. Surrounded by swirling tattoos, the singer glances down at the guitar in his hands, lost in the music that he's making. It's little surprise, then, that the opening cut, "Snakes in My Garden," mixes slashing slide acoustic guitar and drums on an uptempo blues that alludes to the first and most famous garden along with God's favorite whipping boy, Job. The following title cut, however, captures a more low-key vibe, which Ellis describes in the liner notes as a "rumba." "God's Tattoos" has a sluggish, meandering quality that gives the lyric an eerie undercurrent; when Ellis sings of how life's experiences leave everyone with "another one of God's tattoos," it all makes perfect sense. While Ellis hasn't written all of the album's songs, titles like "When Leadbelly Walked the River Like Christ" (an instrumental), "Here Am I, Lord Send Me," and "Jesus Stole My Heart" reveal a reflective soul. God's Tattoos never comes across as fundamentalist proselytizing, thankfully. Whatever the inner meaning of these lyrics, Ellis surrounds himself with good musicians, and together they create a wide variety of full-band arrangements, relying on acoustic and electric elements. God's Tattoos, then, succeeds by wrapping these oddly names songs in warm, winning musical packages. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Customer Reviews

The Real Deal

After a decade or so of reading Bill Ellis' excellent music columns in the (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, I am delighted to find that the former reporter can play and sing every bit as well as he writes. After leaving his job at the newspaper and emerging on the local music scene as William Lee Ellis, I was curious to know whether Ellis would be able to carry the torch that was lit back in the 1920s by the likes of Furry Lewis, Will Shade, and a host of country blues musicians from Memphis and surrounding territory. The answer is a resounding yes. Like Jorma Kaukonen and Roy Book Binder (among others), Ellis takes his inspriation from the Reverend Gary Davis. Yet this is no mere re-creation of Davis' uniquely complex style. Ellis shows here that he can pay homage while remaining true to his own vision, and thankfully includes enough modern touches (such as electric guitar effects) to keep God's Tattoos from becoming yet another note-for-note rehash. Moreover, he's a fine singer, reminiscent (to my ears) of Geoff Muldaur (which I mean as high praise), and is backed by some outstanding vocalists and sidemen. Aside from iTunes spelling the title of the album incorrectly -- something that Bill Ellis' copy editors would surely have caught during his newspaper days -- I can't think of anything I'd change about this album. It's fresh, it's honest, it's impeccably performed, and it leaves me feeling good each time I listen to it. In short, the blues as it ought to be.

Pure Heart

What do you get when you cross a well traveled musicican with a seasoned writer, you get an album that you class as Blues but it reaches much more? Produced by the legnedary Jim Dickenson, this album is a perfect example of art meets passion. I think William just got on a stoll and poured his heart into a mic and Jim was there to catch it.

God’s Tattoos, William Lee Ellis
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Customer Ratings

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