Brooklyn transplant (by way of the White Mountains of Arizona) Charles Ellsworth will be releasing his latest studio album Honeysuckle Summer on March 5th, 2021. Just as the pandemic was taking seed around the country earlier this year, the singer-songwriter managed to recruit several musicians from the Brooklyn music scene – including Jared Schapker (Grandpa Jack) and Blake Suben (Dirty Bird) – to help him record this album with producer Joe Reinhart (Hop Along, Algernon Cadwallader) at his Headroom Studio in Philadelphia.
Honeysuckle Summer is Ellsworth’s demonstration of coming full circle – telling his “whole story so far.” In working to overcome his own traumas, through self-exploration and new-found sobriety, he became acutely aware of how all of the minutia one experiences throughout life add up to an eventual person and how we have a choice on what to do with them. If not addressed, they can create problematic patterns that carry through life or we can embrace the good and do the work to overcome the bad.
As is the case with any songwriter, much of Ellsworth’s past work has drawn from his own past experiences. At face level, this album seems to be no different. However, Honeysuckle Summer addresses the many parts of his youth that he previously has been unable or unready to talk about. In early childhood, Ellsworth’s father was abusive. Physically, mentally, and sexually, and as the oldest boy, he was often the target of his heavy hand. When Ellsworth was just 12, his father was sentenced to twelve years in prison – turning the family’s life upside down. This album is about Ellsworth finally coming to grips with the extent of his own trauma and his journey from a suicidal rock bottom to a place of health and contentment he’d not previously known – which allowed him to open up and finally be able to tell these stories.
The coming full circle theme is also evident in his sound. It’s been a slow progression with a lot of little shifts to reach his current sound. Charles grew up on Mormon hymns and Top 40 country, but later rejected that as a teen, opting for classic and alternative rock. Most of his early solo music was indie folk, but more recently (his 2017 LP Cesaréa, recent singles, and new record), he’s finally embraced his Americana roots and settled comfortably into a new alt-country sound in the vein of Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson – which is where the music on this album falls.
Today Glide is excited to premiere “Max & Geraldine,” one of the standout tracks on the new record. With a sunny and laidback country-soul groove, the song rambles along as its protagonist ponders a long distance crush. Ellsworth writes lyrics that feature colorful anecdotes and vibrant storytelling. The song has a rambling vibe to it that is accentuated by the twangy guitar and a loping organ. Ellsworth’s unique songwriting shines with a literary sensibility and his ability to craft characters is on full display.
Ellsworth describes the inspiration behind the song:
“‘Max & Geraldine’ was inspired by a friend I’ve had a long distance crush on in Ohio for nearly a decade now. The type of crush who will be a lifelong friend but never a lover, and everyone is probably better off because of it. During a brief midweek morning text conversation with her I came up with the line “somewhere within the limits of south Cincinatti/She’s my queen of the Ohio river valley” and it was pretty much off to the races after that. I don’t think I’ve ever written a song as fast as I wrote ‘Max & Geraldine,’ and while I may have penned its equal, I don’t think I’ve written one better.”