Singer/songwriters are ten-a-penny in this town. So are great guitar players. A combination of the two? That’s as rare as a modicum of modesty at the GIT Awards. Nick Ellis has the lot. First things first, however, and his original material is from the top drawer. All the finger picking in the world will never make up for the lack of a great song, but the likes of ‘Electric Blue High Heels’ and ‘The Grand Illusion’ (both from Ellis’ forthcoming ‘Grace & Danger’ EP) are works of swinging soul and blues that are still blue.
“I make my guitar sound like a busy day,” he says. “I like to use the guitar polyphonically – incorporating all those sounds you hear in the street: conversations, rhythms of the rain and the music of the traffic.” He’s nailed it. Ellis, former main man with The Maybes?, lets the music flow through him and his vocal and guitar stylings arrive in liquid form. The sound is that of perpetual motion and a finely-tuned battle, poised betwixt mistakes and majesty, between every note being picked and sung.
“The songs are like chapters from a book or scenes from a film – but these stories are true,” he says. The delicate ‘Mr Tibbs’ is a case in point: a deliberately finger-picked melody, highlighted by a conversational tone of voice, telling a tale of some one or it who “is friendly with the neighbours” and who “you often see (him) walking down the hall”. It puts you in mind of Alex Turner’s sublime solo soundtrack to the Richard Ayoade film, ‘Submarine’: all furtive glances and looks down a dark entry.
Sure, you can also hear John Martyn in the spirit and atmosphere of the EP, but when can’t you hear big John when a lad plays a guitar with dexterity and sings his heart out? Something else is happening here, Mr Jones, and we’ll not let lazy journalism get in the way. Especially when we’re dealing with the quality of the penultimate tune on ‘Grace & Danger’, the mesmerising ‘A Walk Through the City’. Just wait until you hear it: sounding like the sun looks from the top of a hazy Hope Street on a summer afternoon, the vocal wraps its arms around you like a major key Mavers melody and the story unfolds on a bed of beauty. A little bit like Ellis’ forthcoming EP.
We’ll be there next month when he launches the disc at Leaf on Bold Street. We recommend you are, too. Here’s a little taster…
Nick Ellis ‘Grace & Danger’ EP launch
Thursday April 21st 2016, Leaf Tea Shop, Bold Street
Pic by John Johnson