Review: Dennis Ellsworth, The Con Club

When the phrase ‘Americana’ is rolled out to describe a band’s music, as it increasingly is these days for any roots and country related music, perhaps we should spare a thought for Canada. When it comes to the USA’s northern cousins, there is a wealth of roots music running through its seams, but it’s rarely described as anything more geographically apt than Americana. All of which is slightly odd, when you consider that the band who most defined the yet-to-be-named-genre, The Band, were, in fact, Canadian. So why not a more appropriate name for the  authentic music of the Canadian? Why no Saskatchewana?

All of which brings us round to the fact that many of the great Canadian folk and country and roots singers and bands share a similar musical heritage to their neighbours. Dennis Ellsworth, of Prince Edward Island, Canada, makes music that can most definitely be described as Americana. He also knows his way around a melody, as he showed on his 2013 album Hazy Sunshine, which was awash with hummable, uplifting melodies and a sense of soft melancholia. It was the sound of a songwriter reaching the uplands and doing it with a graceful panache.

Ellsworth has followed a circuitous route to his sound, which, while fitting into the Americana catch-all, owes a certain debt to the classic songwriters of the ’70s. Radio friendly but independent of spirit, it’s no surprise to find that the songwriter is an admirer of Christine McVie, Harry Nilsson, Joni Mitchell and John Phillips among others. It wasn’t always so, with the young Ellsworth sharpening his musical chops on a decidedly punkier sound and with various bands before settling into his rhythm as a solo performer.

Faced with the task of following up Hazy Sunshine, Ellsworth chose to record in Athens, Georgia with David Barbe, with whom he previously worked on his Dusk Dreams album, and has delivered an album that builds further on an increasingly exquisite back catalogue. Ellsworth’s instantly recognisable vocals radiate warmth from these songs that fit perfectly with the singer’s “darkly optimistic” outlook. “Full Moon Blues” positively glows with a gorgeous sadness, while on “Stay True” Elsworth channels a Richard Hawley croon on a song with a groove as easy as a soporific summer’s day fishing on the banks of some secluded river.

Back on these shores for a wide-ranging tour, there’s never been a better time to catch Ellsworth and enjoy his rich and varied songcraft, with an afternoon in-store at Union Music Store followed by a set at the Con Club along with Session Americana.

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