Tue, Oct 15, 2013.
PEI's Ellsworth is in fine form these days as a songwriter, following up his 2012 Dusk Dreams album with another full release already. It's his fifth solo disc, along with his work with Haunted Hearts, and he's reaching new levels each time. This time out, he's produced by Skydigger Josh Finlayson, someone who knows what good songwriting is all about, and how to turn that into a tight, well-presented package. For the this album, the pair concentrate on the core of each number, the fine vocal delivery by Ellsworth, the impact of the words, and the soft, sweet melodies.
Instead of turning up, there are plenty of calm, soothing songs on Hazy Sunshine. Ellsworth's almost crooning to us, a more subtle Burton Cummings tone to his voice, and I mean that with great respect, as there's lots of emotion and strength. Behind him, the band is solid but never loud, even the guitar leads and drums kept lower than Ellsworth's voice. A major instrument throughout is the violin played by fellow Islander Kinley Dowling (Hey Rosetta!), who also provides harmonies, and that's her father Alan on drums. Tom Bovaconti from Ron Sexsmith's band handled much of the electric guitar, and Finlayson and Maize add Skydigger harmonies to the grand tune Harry Nilsson's Heart. Another standout is Coke Machine Glow, a Gord Downie lyric-poem for which Ellsworth composed a new melody. But Ellsworth's words more than stand up to those standards, and nature, from sunshine to cliff edges, shows up in most every song, a search for earthly paradise.
Ellsworth is on the road, launching the disc at shows near home, before heading to the U.K. for November and December. You can see him at the Sanctuary Theatre in Saint John Oct. 25, the Cedar Tree in Fredericton Oct. 26, and at the Carleton in Halifax Oct. 30.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).