Once an artist uses our platform to connect with an audience, we grandfather them into the NoiseTrade community for life and keep our antennae tuned to let you know about whatever future projects they’re working on. This week’s heads up: NT Alumni Robert Ellis continues his sonically expansive songwriting on Texas Piano Man where he boldly blends the country swagger of Leon Russell with the piano pop of Elton John.
Throughout his career, Robert Ellis has been fearless about trying on different songwriting hats. From twangy country acoustics to barroom electric guitars to pop-skewed production touches, Ellis has found a way to masterfully weave his warm vocal drawl and musical magic through a variety of sonic variations. For his newest album, Texas Piano Man, Ellis has crafted his most dynamic creative evolution to date. Retaining all the charm and swagger of his Texas musical roots, Ellis has infused his newest batch of songs with sentimentally rousing piano work that calls to mind the country rock playfulness of Leon Russell and the complex pop mastery of ‘70s-era Elton John. Texas Piano Man will be released on February 14 by New West Records.
Within its 11 songs, Texas Piano Man more than lives up to the promise of its name and cover art. Ellis is not only impressively proficient at the piano, but his ability to switch between various playing styles adds an incredible layer of excitable movement to the album. “Passive Aggressive” blends flirtatious rhythms with Beatles-esque background vocals, “Nobody Smokes Anymore” romps like a Honky Chateau b-side, “Topo Chico” traffics in boogie woogie, “When You’re Away” soars with a fleet-fingered Billy Joel bounce, and so on. All throughout the album, Ellis’ piano is surrounded by some feisty guitar work and a warmly-recorded drum and bass combo that makes this album feel like a long lost sonic twin to some of the best loved and most revered albums of the 1970s.
Over the last few years, New West has really been ramping up their vinyl game and the Texas Piano Man release is no exception. Housed in a beautiful gatefold presentation with a strikingly expansive single shot covering both interior frames, Texas Piano Man is available on standard black wax or on two color variants – translucent “yellow rose” (exclusively from New West) or marbled “sky blue” (exclusively from indie retailers). The full-color inner sleeve contains additional outtake photos from the scenic cover art session and the 150g weighted wax pressing allows for a smooth, “no skip” listening experience. I was really impressed with the quality of my pressing (New West has been incredibly consistent on this front over the years) and the warm hue of the semi-translucent blue with light marbling was an impressive aesthetic match to the wide open spaces feel of the cover art.