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William Lee Ellis - Conqueroo


William Lee Ellis

Yellow Dog Records - YDR 1043

Available from William Lee Ellis's web site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

It makes perfect sense that William Lee Ellis is on the same label with Mark Lemhouse. The two are basically cast in much the same mold: highly eclectic purveyors of a spectrum of roots-based musics, gents who can perform immaculately in or out of genre. In Conqueroo, Ellis vends a dauntingly crafted dozen+ cuts of gospel (My Religion Too), near-Claptony acoustic heartache (Where Would I Go?), bayou blues slur and sway (Everything Changes but You), and much more.

Like his compeer, Ellis has his preferences. Where Lemhouse sticks closer to the road, to the grit and tooth of things, Ellis takes a folkier approach. His version of Maybelline is a good deal more blues-folksy than Berry's original, but there's a little secret here: Ellis is the godson and namesake of the legendary Bill Monroe and the son of world-famed Tony Ellis, thus the guy has a lineage, one that includes in the mountains of Appalachia alongside the darksome bayous of the South, and, thus, he escorts the namesake of Berry's song back to her grittier origins. Honey Take Your Leave is a country and western layback with mountain tangs ending as a folky jaunt. Then, of course, there's the jitterbuggin' Rider on Your Soul and its grasshopper slide burning through the tall grass alongside Larry Nager's righteous tappity washboard.

All the cuts on Conqueroo are exceptionally deceptive, claiming only a few players on each yet filled to the brim with excellent musicianship so absorbing that you never notice the spare roster. Ellis is a master of his craft and makes the whole thing seem effortless while daunting. Didn't hurt, either, that he signed to the riveting Yellow Dog label, which has perfectionist ways and an intense love of roots 'n blues. Somewhere, Unka Bill Monroe is smiling from ear to ear.

Track List:

  • She Conquered the Conqueroo
  • My Religion Too
  • Where Would I Go
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen (Ellis / Marshall)
  • Never be the Child
  • Northern Lights
  • Everything Changes but You (Ellis / Nager)
  • King of the Mountain (Ellis / Carroll)
  • Maybelline (Chuck Berry)
  • Honey Take Your Time (Ellis / Nager)
  • Rider on Your Soul
  • Black Sea Blues (Ellis / Marshall)
  • Rose Hill
All songs written by William Lee Ellis except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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