Who is Robert Ellis? At first glance, he’s simply a smiling, longhaired, twenty-two-year old in a hand-stitched western shirt and Dwight Yoakam-tight blue jeans. But there’s more to this youthful Houston, Texas native than meets the eye. The New York Times recently proclaimed that Ellis sounds “equally inspired by Jackson Browne and George Jones.” Not a bad reference point for an artist his age. Ellis cut his teeth performing the songs of similar luminaries around town, most notably at the neighborhood beacon, Fitzgerald’s. His “Whiskey Wednesdays” at that club are regularly packed with punkish newcomers and graying locals sharing a mutual interest in artists ranging from Ray Price to Buck Owens to George Jones.
Ellis has songwriting ability equal to his encyclopedic knowledge of these greats and it shines on his 2011 New West Records debut, Photographs. The young songwriter’s second release is an impressive and diverse concept album split between five breathtaking folk songs and five soon-to-be country standards. Listening to Photographs, one finds it difficult to pigeonhole Robert Ellis. It’s even harder to remember that he’s barely just begun.