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William Lee Ellis - God's Tattoos

God's Tattoos

William Lee Ellis

Yellow Dog Records 1343

Available from William Lee Ellisís web site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Tampa Blue

William Lee Ellis has the pedigree, the licks, the sound and the CD: God's Tattoos!

God's Tattoos is one of the best releases I have heard in a years. On the first listening I thought this was a good but not exceptional collection but I kept listening. I found that I listened and listened and listened. Over and over I kept listening to this CD. There was something about it that kept drawing me in; something honest, deep and direct.

My curiosity about this CD began when I heard it referred to as blues and Americana. That term, Americana, has been in vogue for sometime now and I have never really felt comfortable with it. Mr. Ellis is definitely doing some blues and if the other things he is doing is Americana then we need a lot more of it!

The sounds on God's Tattoos seem to range even more widely than the obvious influences and interests driving his music. On the one hand you have some definite blues songs like Snakes In My Garden, Four Horses and Cold and Weary. There are songs based on the old spirituals like The Call, Here Am I, Lord Send Me and Jesus Stole My Heart. Filling out the collection are things like the contemporary styled Perfect Ones Who Break, an e-Bow based piece called When Leadbelly Walked the River Like Christ, the instrumental The Missing Moon and Stars and other cuts that you need to discover for yourself.

Two tunes jumped out at me demanding close and repeated listening. I was already familiar with Search My Heart, an old southern spiritual indelibly burned in my mind by Rev. Gary Davis. I was eager to hear Mr. Ellis' treatment of this standard. I was prepared to be disappointed by hearing someone fall short of the mark. That hazard was completely avoided since this version goes completely in another direction. I couldn't believe I had the right track until the vocals began. It took me a few bars to bounce back from my shock and listen to this treatment. Thank goodness for an open mind. This version just may have legs! Even without the other strong tracks on God's Tattoos this rendering of Search My Heart justifies the whole project!

The second tune that I keep going back to is the title cut. I've just cued it up again to listen to while I write this portion of the review. My first reaction was, "Gads, that's the title cut?!?!" But this is the cut that I have listened to most of all. How many times having you read "haunting" in a review and wondered what was meant? It means God's Tattoos. I admit that I do not fully understand this song but I will keep listening until I do. This is a mysterious piece of music with layer upon layer of beauty to keep exploring. He chose the right song for the CD title.

I can't finish without mentioning Mr. Ellis' wonderful voice. This is a voice that is perfectly match for the music he makes. It is also a voice that will remind you of another, already very famous, performer. I hope that someday everyone will be as familiar with the name William Lee Ellis as that other person. Buy God's Tattoos and see what I'm talking about!

Track List:

  • Snakes in My Garden
  • God's Tattoos
  • When Leadbelly Walked the River Like Christ
  • Search My Heart
  • Four Horses
  • Perfect Ones Who Break
  • The Call
  • Cold and Weary
  • Here Am I, Lord Send Me
  • Jesus Stole My Heart
  • The Missing Moon and Stars
  • Dust Will Write My Name

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2006, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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