Houston-based artist Robert Ellis‘ new album, Photographs, is divided into two distinct halves: the first is a set of soft folk numbers, while the second is a set of more conventional country music. Though each side of the record may not appeal to all listeners, they do well showcasing the diversity of a gifted young singer-songwriter.
The first five songs of Photographs call up the mellow FM folk-rock of the early 1970’s. Ellis’ tender voice and acoustic guitar take the foreground, with some occasional backup from a piano, steel guitar or light strings – think Neil Young right around Harvest. Lyrically, Ellis stays very down-to-earth, which gives the album the air of earnestness that is essential to this style of music. When he sings, he sings like he means it. Two Cans of Paint, a simple song about painting a new house with his lover, comes off as especially sweet.
Side two is a throwback to the same era as the first, but jumps genres to a more traditional country sound. The guitar picking speeds up, the pedal steel jumps forward in the mix, and Ellis’ voice exudes a little more of a nasal twang. On tracks “Comin’ Home” and “No Fun”, the influence of singers like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings remain clear, even outside Ellis’ verbal shout-outs. So, naturally, if their style of country isn’t to your liking, then it’s doubtful you’ll enjoy Photographs. However, if you take your tunes with a shot of easygoing southern drawl, then hey, here’s a perfect soundtrack for your current summer evenings.