Robert Ellis is set to return with Texas Piano Man on Valentine’s Day 2019 via New West Records. The 11-song set was co-produced by Ellis and Niles City Sound (Leon Bridges) in Fort Worth, TX and is largely comprised of songs written by Ellis, an accomplished guitarist, on grand piano. Texas Piano Man follows Ellis’ critically acclaimed 2016 self-titled LP which was named an “Album of the Year” by multiple outlets including NPR Music, Rolling Stone Country, American Songwriter, among others. Its single “California” was placed at #23 on NPR Music’s “Top 100 Songs of 2016,” with the outlet calling him “one of Americana’s most innovative young stars,” and the song “pure pop genius.” A wild and spirited album, the grandiose Texas Piano Man presentation – vocals that soar, pumping piano vamps that call to mind Leon Russell and Elton John — finds an intriguing bedfellow with lyrical and thematic content that are disarming for their sincerity. A larger projection of Ellis’ wilder inclinations, the tone of the record can swing like moods during the course of a day. Putting down his guitar and sitting at a piano awakened something, and Ellis likens the musical experience to being behind the wheel of “a rock solid muscle car.” It’s a heavy thing, with beautiful lines.
Today, NPR Music has premiered Texas Piano Man’s lead off song, “Fucking Crazy,” and Rolling Stone Country has premiered its accompanying video for the track. The Erica Alexandria Silverman-directed video was was shot in Marfa, TX and depicts a crazed couple’s adventures with a hostage in tow. The song itself finds that two people’s jagged parts sometimes fit together perfectly. NPR Music said “Dressed head to heels in a white tuxedo, Robert Ellis has now fully embraced his role as Texas troubadour, putting a little Gram Parsons-style honky-tonk into the bedazzled piano-pop of Elton John” and “In an arrangement filled with oohs and ahhs that cross both Abbey and Yellow Brick roads, Ellis posits our hearts’ toil in the everyday insanity of the world, so that maybe the only sane approach to life is recklessly falling in love.” Rolling Stone Country said “…on his forthcoming album, Texas Piano Man, he dives deeply into a new persona: a white-suited, blue bonnet Elton John determined to challenge expectations of what it means to be a musician residing in the Lone Star State,” and “Ellis can do shit kicking honky-tonk just as well as he can inhabit an ivory-tickling Lone Star State of Mind.”
Because Ellis and his band were fluent in honky tonk and capable of burning through dozens of George Jones standards on any given night, he could have found his boots set in concrete. He has instead over the course of four albums done his best to set wide parameters for his musical expression, befitting a guy from a state nearly 800 miles from one end to the other. “With Texas, people expect a certain thing and they want a certain thing, and I fought that for a long time,” he says. “I’ve realized though that Texas shouldn’t be made a category. I want to redefine to the outside world what it means to be Texan a little bit.” Ellis’ Texas contains multitudes, a space so broad and wide open that it can contain the caricatures and archetypes seen from the rather narrow view so often taken from the outside, as well as the artists, oddballs and freaks who populate its many crannies. He knows the roadside attractions and the favored drinks and foods. That’s how one ends up with the album closing song “Topo Chico.”
Should the feelings on the album come across as too intimate on paper, the presentation by the Texas Piano Man sells it with feral abandon and pop majesty. The cover artwork for the album does a good job summarizing who this guy is. It features Ellis on top of a mountain in Marfa, TX seated at a grand piano, wearing a white tuxedo. He describes the Texas Piano Man as the guy who wears the tuxedo everywhere. If there’s a ribbon to be cut, he’s there. A groundbreaking? He’ll hold the shovel and deal with the dirty suit later. “It’s more about a spirit,” he says, “than an aesthetic. There’s the classic play of the piano man, and with a little fashion behind it. I want you to listen to the songs. But also to see the rings and the glitz and the glamor.”
Robert Ellis’ Texas Piano Man will be available on compact disc, across digital retailers, standard black vinyl, as well as limited edition Sky Blue colored vinyl available at Independent Retailers and Yellow Rose Of Texas colored vinyl directly from New West Records. Texas Piano Man is available for pre-order now via New West Records.
Robert Ellis Texas Piano Man Track Listing
1. Fucking Crazy
2. When You’re Away
3. Nobody Smokes Anymore
4. Passive Aggressive
6. There You Are
7. Let Me In
8. Aren’t We Supposed To Be In Love?
10. He Made Me Do It
11. Topo Chico
Photo credit: Alexandra Valenti