Tinsley Ellis, Janiva Magness
Wed Feb 26
Tinsley Ellis, Janiva Magness
|Age:||Ages 21+ Only|
Blues-rock guitar wizard Tinsley Ellis & soulful vocal powerhouse Janiva Magness will be together under one-roof for a night of bluesy goodness!Buy Tickets
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Genre: blues Ticket Price: $20 advanced / $23 day of show / $35 reserved loft seating (loft seating is available over the phone or in person at our box office)
"Incendiary...Scalding guitar and banshee solos. Ellis mixes soul and fire." –Premier Guitar
"Rugged, burning and riveting...Tinsley Ellis is a powerful and commanding presence, both on guitar and as a gruff, full-throated vocalist. He’s the hardest-working man in blues-rock...It’s impossible to not enjoy the ride." –Blues Music Magazine
Ever since he first hit the road 40 years ago, blues-rock guitar virtuoso, soulful vocalist and prolific songwriter Tinsley Ellis has grown his worldwide audience one scorching performance at a time. Armed with blazing, every-note-matters guitar skills and scores of instantly memorable original songs, Ellis has traveled enough miles, he says, “to get to the moon and back six times.” He’s released 17 previous solo albums, and has earned his place at the top of the blues-rock world. When asked if he’d consider himself a “blue-collar” bluesman, Ellis, in his trademark wit, quips, “No. I’m part of the no-collar crowd.” His imaginative songs tell stories of common, shared experiences in uncommon ways, all fueled by his high-octane, infectious, hard-rocking guitar playing. Live, Ellis has captivated and amazed fans in all 50 United States, as well as in Canada, all across Europe, Australia and South America. Vintage Guitar says, “He delivers blistering blues-rock, soul romps, minor-key blues, and shuffles—and it all sounds great.” The Chicago Sun-Times says, “It’s hard to overstate the raw power of his music.”
Ellis considers his new album, Ice Cream In Hell, the most raw-sounding, guitar-drenched album of his career. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Ellis and his longtime co-producer Kevin McKendree (John Hiatt, Delbert McClinton), Ice Cream In Hell is a cathartic blast of blues-rock power. Though inspired by all three Kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie), as well by Carlos Santana, Hound Dog Taylor and others, Ice Cream In Hell is pure, unadulterated Tinsley Ellis. The 11 Ellis originals range from the nod to Stax-era Albert King, Last One To Know, to the Peter Green-flavored Everything And Everyone to the Hound Dog Taylor-esqe romp Sit Tight Mama before ending with the hair-raising, slow-burning ballad, Your Love’s Like Heroin. Throughout the album, Ellis’ deeply emotional, lyrical guitar solos perfectly match his fervent vocals.
On Ice Cream In Hell, says Ellis, “there’s more guitar than ever.” His main axe during recording was his cherry red Freddie King ES-345 reissue. One of only 200 made in 2018, it instantly became Elllis’ go-to guitar. In addition, he used his 1959 Fender Stratocaster, 1967 Gibson ES-345, 1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, 1983 Gibson Moderne and his 1969 Martin D-35. Rolling Stone says Ellis plays “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.”
In addition to his legions of fans, Ellis is also revered by his fellow guitarists, with famous friends including Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Oliver Wood, Jonny Lang, Buddy Guy, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, and members of Widespread Panic calling on him to sit in and jam. He’s recently toured with Alligator label mates Tommy Castro and Coco Montoya. Additionally, Ellis shared stages with late blues legends including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Leon Russell, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and many others. But no matter where or with whom he performs, Ellis always plays with grit, soul and unbridled passion.
Born in Atlanta in 1957, Ellis was raised in southern Florida. He acquired his first guitar at age seven, soon after seeing The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. He took to it instantly, developing and sharpening his skills as he grew up. Ellis discovered the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream and The Rolling Stones as well as Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. One night in 1972, he and a friend were listening to Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield’s Super Session record when his friend’s older brother told them if they liked that, they should really go see B.B. King, who was in town that week.
Tinsley and his friends went to the Saturday afternoon performance, sitting transfixed in the front row. When B.B. broke a string on his guitar, Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to Ellis. After the show, B.B. came out and talked with fans, mesmerizing Tinsley with his warmth and kindness. Tinsley’s fate was now sealed; he had to become a blues guitarist. He saw Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and every other blues artist who came through town, always sitting up front, always waiting to meet the artists, take photos, and get autographs. To this day, he still has B.B.’s string.
Less than three years later, Ellis, already an accomplished teenaged musician, left Florida and moved to Atlanta. He soon joined a hard-driving local blues band, the Alley Cats. 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 unprepared public by surprise in 1988. The Chicago Tribune said, “Tinsley Ellis torches with molten fretwork. Ellis takes classic, Southern blues-rock workouts and jolts them to new life with a torrid ax barrage.” His next four releases—1989’s Fanning The Flames, 1992’s Trouble Time, 1994’s Storm Warning (his song A Quitter Never Wins, a highlight from Storm Warning, was recorded by Jonny Lang, selling almost two million copies), and 1997’s Fire It Up—further grew his legend as well as his audience. 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.
In the early 2000s, Ellis released albums on Capricorn Records and on Telarc before returning to Alligator in 2005 with Live–Highwayman, which captured the fifth-gear energy of his barn-burning live show. He followed it with two more incendiary studio releases, 2007’s Moment Of Truth and 2009’s Speak No Evil. He self-released four successful albums on his own Heartfixer label before coming back home to Alligator in 2018, releasing the fan favorite Winning Hand. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart and earned a Blues Music Award (BMA) nomination for Album Of The Year. Ellis was simultaneously nominated for a BMA for Blues Rock Artist Of The Year and for a Living Blues Readers Award for Blues Artist Of The Year. Atlanta’s Stomp & Stammer magazine went all in, saying, “Tinsley Ellis is Georgia’s finest blues picker. Ellis tells great stories through well-written lyrics and heavy doses of guitar virtuosity. He captures a level of authenticity that should inspire more than just his fellow blues players. Americana artists and garage rockers could learn a thing or two from these songs.”
Over the course of his career, Ellis has featured a number of guests on his solo albums. He's recorded with Peter Buck (R.E.M.), guitarist Derek Trucks (who, at age 14, made his recording debut with Tinsley) and keyboardist Chuck Leavell (The Rolling Stones). He in turn has made guest appearances on albums by The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Colonel Bruce Hampton and others. Producers Eddy Offord (John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Yes) and even the legendary Tom Dowd (The Allman Brothers, Ray Charles) helped Ellis hone his studio sound.
“A musician never got famous staying home,” says Ellis, who continues to perform over 150 nights a year. Now, with Ice Cream In Hell, Tinsley Ellis will again hit the highway, bringing his roof-raising, road-tested music to fans wherever they may be. “I’ve seen it all,” the Atlanta native says of his four decades on the road. “And a lot of my audience has been along for the entire time. It’s not always easy. But the payoff is the music. That’s the ice cream.”
With her new Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty, the Grammy-nominated artist is at the nexus of re-invention and tradition. The album, which will be released by Blue Élan Records on September 13, reframes 12 songs curated from the Creedence Clearwater Revival leader’s catalog in Magness’ soaring, soul-centered style. It also places her within the lineage of classic singers who have made albums devoted to exploring the work of a single writer within the Great American Songbook—a process that has yielded such historic recordings as Sarah Vaughan Sings George Gershwin and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook.
That comparison may sound like hyperbole until you hear how creatively Magness, who again collaborated with Grammy-nominated producer Dave Darling to make her fifteenth album, explores these songs, from the familiar Creedence hits “Lodi” and “Bad Moon Rising” to numbers from Fogerty’s solo career, like the title cut and “Don’t You Wish It Was True,” which appears here as a duet with triple-Grammy-winner and American music icon Taj Mahal. And, of course, Fogerty’s work is timeless. His songs have been part of the soundtrack of the lives of multiple generations, cutting a broad swath through rock, blues, and country, and trailblazing the eclectic, roots-based Americana genre.
Magness first opened the door to Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty when she decided to include a passionate version of Fogerty’s gospel-fueled “Long As I Can See the Light” on 2016’s Grammy-nominated Love Wins Again. That album continued her own emergence as a songwriter, which began with 2014’s Original and came into full bloom with 2018’s Love Is an Army. The latter was a brilliantly crafted bridge between the past and present, blending echoes of classic soul and Americana music with enduring themes of love and the contemporary sounds of protest. It followed a 2017 EP, Blue Again, on which Magness, who has won seven Blues Music Awards including Entertainer of the Year, and received 28 nominations, returned to her roots with a collection of songs from that genre’s back pages.
“Kirk Pasich, the founder of Blue Élan, suggested that we record ‘Long As I Can See the Light,’” Magness explains, “and I loved adapting and singing that song, so it was a natural evolution to Change in the Weather. John Fogerty is a brilliant writer. His melodies are big and rich and provide a real highway into the heart of his songs, which is wonderful for me as a singer, and their backbone is his storytelling, which is spare and direct, and absolutely American in its imagery and themes. And those themes endure.”
“A lot of the lyrics of his early material were protest-oriented, and that’s important to me—to be speaking out about the current state of affairs in our country and the world. So, songs he wrote in the late ’60s and early ’70s, like ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Wrote a Song for Everyone,’ which talk about welfare lines and turbulent times ahead, are still relevant.”
Nonetheless, Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty perfectly balances challenging realities with joyful buoyancy. “Don’t You Wish It Was True” exudes that balance. The song, which originally appeared on Fogerty’s 2007 solo album Revival, gets righteous bounce from a happy-go-lucky shuffle beat, loping and sliding guitar, and the bright vocal interplay of Mahal and Magness. Mahal, who began his influential career in 1964, has been Grammy-nominated 11 times, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association in 2014, sings like a gravel-throated Santa from the Mississippi Delta, adding cheerful asides to the tune’s utopian vision. And if
anything, one of the album’s themes is its musical diversity. “Change in the Weather,” for example, gets a tent-revival treatment, with Magness’ spirited testifying, handclapped rhythmic accents, and devilish bursts of dirty guitar.
On “Lodi,” which is reimagined here as a blues-rock workout with a nod to Memphis soul, Magness is joined by Los Angeles-based outlaw country singer-songwriter Sam Morrow. Once again, their voices are a contrast of sandpaper and honey that blends to elevate the song’s classic chorus. And the Creedence rock ballad “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” is slowed to the pace of a lazy river, providing Magness a showcase for elegant phrasing and stirring dynamics that elevates the song’s deep emotionalism into something even more delicate and lovely than the original.
Throughout, producer Darling draws a perfectly tight and raw ensemble sound from the band: Magness’ current touring group of drummer Steve Wilson, bassist Gary Davenport and guitarist Zachary Ross.
“One of the things I love about this album is that people already connect with so many of these songs,” Magness observes. “I connect with these songs. And for me, connecting with people is one of the reasons I love to sing … I have to sing. I know we’re really all part of one big community and, at the heart of everything that unites and divides us, we still have so much in common and so much that we can share. If music like this can bring us all together a little more, then I’m more than happy to be a vehicle for it.”
Although Magness is already in the midst of a creative roll, releasing an album annually and touring the world, 2019 promises to be another banner year. In addition to creating Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty, her memoir, Weeds Like Us, will be published in June. Magness fought some tough battles before she launched her career. She lost both parents to suicide as a child and was placed in a dozen foster homes. But, inspired by the encouragement of her final foster mother and a galvanizing performance by the legendary bluesman Otis Rush, she found stability and salvation—and, ultimately, triumph—in music.
Since the early ’90s, Magness has built an impressive career in American roots music, brick by hard-earned brick. She has traveled millions of miles, sung on thousands of club and festival stages, and made a string of recordings that have earned accolades and awards. Today, her albums rise to the top of Billboard’s roots music charts and the apex of the Americana and blues radio charts. She is only the second woman, following blues giant Koko Taylor, to receive the Blues Foundation’s B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award, and it was presented to her at the Memphis ceremonies by King and Bonnie Raitt. As anyone who has seen her performances or listened to her albums will attest, Magness has, indeed, earned a place in the history of American music.
“It’s hard for me to separate my life from my artist’s life,” says Magness. “It’s easy to get lost in the work and the devotion of being an artist—of trying to give as much of myself as I can to the people I sing to and to the songs themselves, whether I’ve written them or they’re the songs on Change in the Weather. But there’s one thing I know that is the absolute truth: Everything about me isn’t necessarily what you’ll hear on a record or see on a stage, yet everything about me that’s on an album or on a stage is real, every time.”