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Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis – 2016 (New West)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis' latest album finds him focusing on the need to overcome a spate of internal conflicts while trying to figure out a means for dealing with emotional duress. Indeed, this, his fourth full length effort, finds him ruminating on subjects that are top of mind, perceived through a prism of tangled emotions, matters of the heart and other concerns that offer cause for contemplation. If he seems slightly self-obsessed -- the album is self-titled, by the way - he also finds plenty of common ground that ought to give others reason to relate, topics that have to do with longing for love, living through shattered circumstance and dealing with the tenuous bonds that can bring people together as well as tear them apart.

While these subjects tend to be more subdued than celebratory, Ellis manages to make most of these melodies sound upbeat and in some cases, actually exuberant, giving the impression that they're far less mired in melancholia than they might appear on first glance. The hopeful view of "Perfect Strangers," the upward gaze of "Amanda Jane" and the earnest, optimistic "California" mostly maintain a positive perspective. They contribute to a pleasing set of songs that benefits immensely from Ellis' eager, embracing designs.

That's not to say that the album doesn't have its darker moments as well. Indeed, the aimless noodling of "It's Not OK" and the bittersweet diatribe that accompanies "You're Not The One" suggest Ellis has his share of more sobering sentiments to contend with. Nevertheless, it forms an intriguing song cycle of sorts, one that deals with the fragility of the human ego, and the uncertain trajectory that often leads us through the most confusing circumstance. Although these polar forces seem to struggle for his soul, the album that emerges is fluid and assured, the kind that suggests Ellis is more in control than he sometimes lets on.