Scott Ellison – There’s Something About the Night
Liberation Hall Records
14 songs – 62 minutes
Tulsa-based guitarist Scott Ellison pulls out all the stops on this pleasing album, joining forces with members of the Albert Lee and Eric Clapton bands and his own unit, too, to deliver a driving, hour-long set that swings and sways from the hip as it delivers a mix of Texas and Chicago blues and blues-rock.
A veteran road dog who worked behind Conway Twitty’s daughter, Jessica James, in the ‘70s before hitting the road with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown in the early ‘80s, Ellison was once a first-call session artist in Los Angeles, working behind The Box Tops, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, Peaches & Herb and others before launching his own group in the early ‘90s.
He made his recording debut as a front man with two albums — Chains of Love and Live at Joey’s – in L.A. before returning to the Sooner State about five years later and has been a consistent festival headliner since teaming with longtime Robert Cray producer Dennis Walker for the Cold Hard Cash, his first release on Burnside Records.
This is the 13th release for Ellison, an Oklahoma Blues Hall of Famer. His tune, “Cadillac Woman,” topped the blues charts in 2008, and songs have appeared in several major movies, including Reindeer Games and Home Front, as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sister Sister, Joan of Arcadia and Saving Grace on TV. He penned 13 of the 14 cuts on this one, ten of which were in partnership with tunesmith Michael Price and covers Price’s biggest hit, the Bobby “Blue” Bland classic, “Ain’t No Love (in the Heart of the City).”
Recorded in Tulsa, Scott handles lead vocals on 13 of the 14 tracks, doubles on guitar and lays down bass on three tracks, too, with backing from a moveable feast of talents that includes Lee and Rick Robbins on six-string, Jon Greathouse, Dick Sims, Walt Richman and Hank Charles on keys, Scott McQuade on accordion and David Berntson on harmonica.
The rhythm section consists of bassists Lou Castro and Jon Parris and percussionists Robbie Armstrong, Jamie Oldaker, Todd Wolf, David Teegarden and Ron McRorey. Chris Campbell handles lead vocals on one number, and Ginger Blake, Maxine Waters, Julia Waters, Oren Waters and Marcy Levy – aka Marcella Detroit — provide backing vocals.
The rock-solid, unhurried shuffle, “Half a Bottle Down,” opens the action in the aftermath of a romantic hiccup as Ellison describes consuming whiskey but feeling good because his lady’s reversing tracks and returning home after a split. The title tune, “There’s Something About the Night,” bemoans the fact that it’s easy to get through the day during a separation, but problems arise at sundown. A cover of “Ain’t No Love” follows before the uptempo original, “Bury Your Bone at Home,” cautions that divorce lawyers will take you to the cleaners if you decide to roam.
The aural texture of the disc gets a little harder with the driving rocker “Blowin’ Like a Hurricane” before the rapid-fire “Salina” heaps praise on the title lady after she’s cast her spell and made him her love slave – something he doesn’t mind at all. “Meat and Potatoes” serves up a stop-time, slide-guitar pleaser with a heaping helping of food references and a smoking harp line from Berntson before “Feast or Famine” describes a lady who either loves or hates the singer, but nothing in between. The straight-ahead Windy City ballad, “Good Year for the Blues,” delivers a great assessment of 2020 and all the troubles that it wrought before the uptempo “I’m Ready Baby” professes readiness for romance to a woman who’s been eager for a while.
Apparently, it’s a good fit on some levels because she’s a “Mirror Image” of the singer, but not others – as stated in “Chains of Love,” which finds her ready to walk out. Two more numbers — “Revolutionary Man,” which praises the longevity of the blues, and “Where Do You Go When You Leave,” which wonders if “I’m the fool who looks the other way” – bring the album to a close.
There’s Something About the Night touches on many of the hot-button themes that permeate the blues, but Scott Ellison has a clever way with words that run through this one like a river. I liked it, and I think you will, too.