Ellen McIlwaine has made a new album. Referring to its title, one is tempted to talk about "the fire that’s still burning", if it weren’t so tired an expression. And the red-headed singer does not like to make big statements when it comes to speaking about her musical life. But when she does, it soon becomes apparent that this is an artist who prefers to do things her way — or not at all. And that’s precisely because she loves what she does. And that’s the spirit behind the music on SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION - a new album by a remarkable woman.
The Music — the Songs:
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION has become the album Ellen McIlwaine has always wanted to make. It’s a no-holds barred record, reflecting many diverse aspects of her style and featuring performances that truly shine. The album features ten tunes coming from a well of blues feeling that never seems to dry up. Whereas her Bremen performance documented on CD presents a powerful and energetic live act, now Ellen McIlwaine also knows how to put across this energy in the studio environment. And that’s what SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION is all about. Recorded in November in Seatlle, WA, Ellen McIlwaine delivers an exciting mix of original material and adds a bunch of inspired covers. Of invaluable help were her sidemen in the studio: drummer/percussionist Kester Smith and electric bass player Bill Rich. Both are veterans of a number of Taj Mahal bands for the last 30 years like "The Real Thing" Tuba Band and "The International Rhythm Band".
Mockingbird: the ever-popular R’n’B oldie by Charles & Ines Foxx dressed up in a light Reggae outfit, a duet with the great Taj Mahal,
Take Me To The River: the classic Al Green tune in a cooking powertrio funk workout,
Dead End Street: acoustic slide guitar featuring Ellen’s typically energetic unison singing,
Up From The Skies: another loving Hendrix-Tribute — straight to the point,
Sidu (Grandmother): Ellen goes India — improvised vocal lines mix with her acoustic slide playing, congas coming in like tablas and virtuoso vocal — Eastern Blues à la McIlwaine,
Sittin‘ On Top of the World: nice solo piano version of the Howlin‘ Wolf classic
Bid You Goodnight: a traditional church hymn - sung a cappella, Taj Mahal guesting again
Spontaneous Combustion: a nice mix of reggae and R’n’B styles performed with a powerhouse trio,
Say A Single Word: pure melancholy — a haunting love ballad,
Egyptian Blues: nomen est omen — the improvisor in full flight.
Ellen McIlwaine’s music is never just about volume and energy. Her guitar playing is based on density and overtones — she names Jeff Beck and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons as influences in that respect. Ghosts of Southern blues and psychedelic rock are always present in her music - as well as a still rebellious nature. Ellen McIlwaine has been on the road for thirty years now. She knows about the price to be paid for this kind of life. And she will continue doing her thing — that’s just the way she wants it. She communicates this kind of spirit on SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION in a direct and authentic kind of way.
Ellen McIlwaine: vocals, acoustic/electric slide guitar, piano
Kester Smith: drums
Bill Rich: bass
Special Guest: Taj Mahal, vocals