Front cover


McIlwaine, Ellen - Fear Itself

Format: LP
Label: Dot DLP 25942
Year: 1969
Origin: Nashville, Tennessee, USA - Calgary, Alberta
Genre: blues, rock
Value of Original Title: $75.00
Make Inquiry/purchase: email
Release Type: Albums
Playlist: Alberta, 1960's, Canadian Blues


Side 1

Track Name
Crawling Kingsnake
Underground River
Bow'd Up
For Suki
In My Time Of Dying

Side 2

Track Name
The Letter
Mossy Dream
Billy Gene
Born Under a Bad Sign



McIlwaine, Ellen / Fear Itself


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Back cover

McIlwaine, Ellen / Fear Itself

Front cover

Fear Itself


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The album was originally released in 1969 on Dot-Records but didn't receive too much attention - maybe it appeared as a "too" freaked out heavy version of Jefferson Airplane or Big Brother & the Holding Co. The group started back in Atlanta Georgia in 1967 as a quartet with two guitars, played true Psychedelic sounds, recorded with Tom Wilson at the Record Plant in NYC, and moved to Woodstock (NY). The 10 album tracks contain 2 arrangements of traditional tunes all others are originals reflecting true electric heavy blues with a strong Hendrix feel, duelling guitar work and an outstanding female voice/vocals/screams...lots of intense stereo effects.

The group performed at Woodstock Festival in 1968 (one year before...) and played the hottest venues of NYC such as Filmore East. Ellen McIlwaine, the founder of the group made an international solo career as blues-singer and slide guitarist sharing the bill with Jimi Hendrix (main influence), Laura Nyro, Howlin' Wolf, Weather Report, Taj Mahal, George Thorogood, Tom Waits, Chicago, Bruce Springsteen and played a series of concerts with Johnny Winter.

Ellen McIlwaine was born in 1945 and grew up as an adopted child in the family of a Southern Presbyterian minister who was assigned as missionary in post-war Japan. Ellen was two years old when the family moved to Japan. As a child she received proper piano lessons but soon was attracted to a peculiar kind of strange sounding music that eminated from Japanese radios: Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Ray Charles — the rough sounds of black blues and R’n’B. She fells in love with this music instantly.

At age 17, the family returned to the US and settled in the South again, first in Tennessee, then near Atlanta, Georgia. Ellen becomes a guitar-player, she left college and started performing in local clubs. And that’s where popular New York folk singer Patrick Sky heard Ellen and talked her into going to New York City. The folk and blues scene in the village was overflowing with talent and there were lots of gigs — even for a young female upstart from the South. She became an in-house opening act at the famed "Cafe Au Go-Go" for all the great names passing through: John Lee Hooker, Howlin‘ Wolf, Muddy Waters. She also became friends with Jimi Hendrix, who acted as her mentor for a short while, just before leaving for England. The already established Richie Havens and Spirit’s Randy California gave her some valuable advice: "You’ve got to find your own voice, they told her,"and if you do, you must stay with it". And so Ellen McIlwaine turned into a passionate slide guitar player — and has remained to be one until today.

Ellen McIlwaine put together her first band in 1967 in Atlanta and ironically named it "Fear Itself" — hinting at the problems she had fronting an all-male band as lead singer and lead guitar-player at age 22. The band hit the road for New York City to record an album. The experimental blues sounds of "Fear Itself" hit a nerve with the public and press, but soon personal and business problems overshadowed the band’s still fresh career. Ellen McIlwaine got a taste of what it means to try to survive as a female artist in the male-dominated rock business. She left NYC and opted for a more quiet life in Woodstock’s artistic community in upstate New York. In the early Seventies she finally became her own woman and continued playing music as a professional solo artist. She soon developed a particular style of guitar-playing. It’s a style that covers all bases, she’s very rhythmic and funky, playing lead and bass lines simultaneously. Most of all, she turned into a scorching electric slide player. She adapted her vocal style to this ferocious kind of playing and incorporated elements from Indian and Caribbean music. Albums like "Honky Tonk Angel" or "We The People" are popular on FM radio, but Ellen McIlwaine did not hit it big in a commercial sense.

And so Ellen McIlwaine opted for a life "on the road". In the mid-Seventies recorded in Montreal the album "The Real Ellen McIlwaine" — a loving tribute to Hendrix. She was recording and performing throughout the Eighties, working with Jack Bruce on her album "Everybody Needs It", for instance. 1987 she accepted an invitation by Sylvia Tyson (formerly with Canadian folk-duo Ian and Sylvia) to go to Toronto to record another album - "Looking for Trouble".

Since 1992 Ellen McIlwaine has been living in Calgary/Alberta. But she’s on the road most of the time, playing solo or in her beloved power trio format. Since appearing at the "Women in (E)motion"-Festival in Bremen/Germany (documented on "ELLEN MCILWAINE - "WOMEN IN EMOTION" / T & M CD 112) she has been coming to Europe more frequently as well.Today Ellen McIlwaine is pretty content with what she’s got. There have been some bad decisions, she admits, but she’s playing and singing better than ever these days. And she’s not hiding her newfound confidence: "If I have anything more now it’s confidence, the confidence to loosen up even more. I was always pretty loose but when you’re younger it’s more bravado and when you get older it’s confidence."

Ellen McIlwaine: vocals, harp, rhythm guitar, organ
Chris Zaloom: lead guitar
Bill McCord: drums
Paul Album: bass


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