Home MP Americana Album Review : Ellis Bullard: Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution

Album Review : Ellis Bullard: Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

Well this was a rather lovely surprise! I’m the first person to admit that my Country music listening tends towards that which has a solid pop-rock vibe in with it rather than the sort of music that follows the finest traditions of good old-fashioned honky tonk Country.

This album by Ellis Bullard falls squarely into the traditional honky tonk Country bracket (no surprise given the album title) and is a very cool record indeed!

Opener ‘Lucky You, Lucky Me, My Unlucky Ways’ is pretty much the blueprint for what follows being an uptempo barnstormer with Bullard’s vocals just dripping with that authentic Country twang, while Telecasters spit and snarl, pedal steel weeps wondrously and the bass walks deliciously throughout the track. Pretty much everything you need from this kinda thang, really!

‘Prison In My Mind’ has a truly delightful groove while ‘What’s A Man To Do’ slows things down just a smidgeon and showcases some excellent production and arrangement. This track gives Bullard’s voice plenty of space to shine, with clever crescendos and dynamic quieter sections giving the whole thing a really fabulous feel. The pedal steel is front and centre throughout this track giving it a truly classic Country feel.

‘It Ain’t Easy Needing Green’ has a wonderful retro vibe, with the instrumentation truly evoking the sounds of yesteryear and Bullard’s voice drops down the octaves for that kind of gloriously deep tone you only ever hear in classic Country, while ‘Young, Wild and Free’ keeps up the retro vibe in a delightful Country shuffle, with choppy guitar chords, aching steel and some lovely lead guitar picking.

‘Patron and Lime’ continues the retro vibe with some gloriously seventies guitar chords that swirl around courtesy of what I assume are classic phase effects, supported by delicate piano and the ever-present steel guitar and classic Country vocal melodies.

Next up, ‘Happy Sad’ brings some good old-time Rock n Roll into the vibe. I love the way the guitars work in this track, with some quite wonderful picking that keeps the listener interested throughout – a trait I have noticed in the rest of the album too. The guitar solo on this one is really fabulous Country picking too!

We finally get a classic Country ballad in ‘Hopeless Waltz (Gina Walker)’ which has that requisite 6/8 time signature and classic Country chord structure and lyricism. Bullard really piles the twang onto his vocals here which is bang on the money for this kind of track. Next up is ‘Cocaine Money’ which keeps the seventies vibe front and centre before the title track ends the album on a slightly surprising note.

With ‘Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution’, gone is the classic seventies traditional Country vibe to be replaced by a more seventies Rock kinda thang: overdriven guitars snarl, crunch and bite while the pedal steel is relegated to a more supporting (but still important) role. I really like this track. It suits Bullard’s vocal too. It’s also immaculately produced and arranged with some fabulous playing from the entire band.

The more ‘Rock’ sound works really well, sounding entirely natural and not in the least contrived. I’d like to hear more of this kinda sound in future and it’s a cool way to conclude the album.

Overall, this record is a superb throwback to the Country of old. It’s a gazillion miles away from the corporate Nashville sound and truthfully is all the better for that. Despite the retro vibe, it doesn’t sound dated. Rather, it feels honest, fresh and real and with any kind of music, that’s important, but with the more traditional Country, it’s absolutely essential.

To me, the honesty just shines through – this is a man doing what he loves and doing it his way. Well done, Ellis Bullard! A damned fine slice of good ol’ Country music: well written, well played, well sung and very well produced. Great job all round!

Instagram: @ellisbullardmusic 

Facebook: facebook.com/EllisBullardMusic 

Twitter: twitter.com/ellisbullardtx 

Official Website: ellisbullard.com 

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