LIVE SHOW REVIEWS
I don’t pretend to be an aficionado of the blues genre, the ear drums have had many tunes from Doc Watson, J D Crowe and various others, mainly bluegrass singers and instrumentalists, pass by them. I know little but I know what I like. Rory Ellis, Perry Stenbeck and Steffan Sorensen blew me away. If stage presence ever made a difference then Australian Ellis had us hooked with that alone. His craic, quips and stories knitted into the set were a real belly laugh. He had the crowd all pinned back with tales of the one and love. The song ground forward and midway through he uncovered the true focus of the love in question, a 65 Pontiac. Classic! My better half described Ellis’s voice as a proper man’s voice and fantastically melodic. I couldn’t put it better. Is it like Seasick Steve or Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish at all? Maybe not and who cares! This trio met at the Shetland Folk Festival in 2008 and now collaborate. As they said it’s tough to get together to practice given Ellis is down under and the other two live in Denmark. It works though, this was only the third gig together and they just go together. Stenbeck plays electric guitar leads as good as Mark Knopfler and Sorensen’s base lines were a real treat, particularly on the lovely swinging The Gift, penned like them all by Ellis. It is a song about the beauty of getting older, you ain’t getting old at all you are perfectly damaged, I’m pinching that line.
Review from Cullivoe as part of the Shetland Folk Festival by Brian Johnson of the Shetland Times, May 2012.
Sunday started with a performance of real quality from the Rory Ellis Duo. After a long Saturday, which had been enjoyed to the fullest by all, Ellis was the perfect choice to begin Sunday’s proceedings. A veteran of the festival scene, Ellis and his partner in crime Alex Roberts steadily coaxed us from our hangovers with a country-influenced blues set delivered with flair and the deep, hypnotic, stonecarved vocal style that identifies Ellis as a uniquely talented performer.
Maryport Blues Festival 2010 review, Tuesday 27th July, 2010.
It was a widely-held opinion that Rory Ellis’s two half-hour sets at last year’s Worthenbury Roots and Blues Festival were the highlights of the day – therefore it was a delight to catch the big man from Melbourne back to do his full show in the intimate surroundings of the village hall – the two lengthy sets confirming again what a performer this guy is, his rootsy songs cover many topics, from growing up, to politics and many observations on modern life that are usually led into with some observations and stories.
Again partnered by the supremely talented Alex Roberts from Poole in Dorset, on guitar, lap slide and bouzouki and occasional backing vocals, Ellis’s deep, low rumble of a voice, together with his guitar and banjo playing, was on top form on a selection of material from his five albums, with a healthy portion of new material from his recently-released “Perfectly Damaged”, as he said “I’m not getting old, I’m just perfectly damaged”!
The two sets were a joy, opening with the brooding “Passenger”, and the lovely title track from “Two Feathers” a delightful tale of his childhood ‘bolt-hole’, with the excellent “Home Tonight”, about getting lost on the Leicester ring road, another first set standout – all embellished by the quite marvelous guitar work from Alex Roberts . . . a star in his own right! The new “Jesus Lane”, about a street in Cambridge, was also a highlight.
The very long second set contained a fair sprinkling from “Perfectly Damaged” and a few old favourites. “The Gift” was preceded by the background to the song, about a drugs bust gone wrong in Devon, the wry “Waiting for Armaguard”, the Australian equivalent to Securicor, and his visions to get rich quick and his take on internet dating, the great “PC Love”. He dipped into racial tensions on the great song “Suburban Soldier”, written about a riot near Sydney, and another fine song.
Elsewhere, we had a sing-along on the chorus of his anti-John Howard song, “Work”, and a couple of personal favourites – the epic, sweeping “Road of no Return”, written about the never-ending highways in his native Australia, and the gritty “Railway Parade”. He touched on his time working doors in Melbourne with “The Union Hotel”, and how after being shot at four times decided it might be a good idea to move on . . . indeed! This was an early date in a very lengthy tour, with an appearance next weekend at The Linton Festival, near Hereford, and also a slot at the Maryport Blues Festival in July. A couple of hours in Rory Ellis’s company come highly recommended – a truly engaging performer and great writer, especially caught live in such a nice small venue.
Review: Rory Ellis at Worthenbury Village HalL Chester Chronicle, June 30, 2009.
I have seen Arnie Cottrell (Crazy Train and Sorry About That! are great CD’s) several times (to describe his voice is not easy, but close your eyes and imagine slowly sinking in a tub of melted chocolate and you’re not far off). So I knew I was going to be in for a treat, but I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride that Rory Ellis and Arnie took me on that night. Playing tracks from all three of Rory’s albums you never knew what was coming next. A big man, with an even bigger voice which was at once, haunting, melodic, passionate and oh so powerful. The highlight of the night for me was Rory’s rendition of ‘Ride’, a song he wrote for his stillborn daughter: This huge powerful man sang with such a passion and feeling, the audience was silenced and there was not a dry eye in the house! He followed this with Rushes, the title track to his new album and the upbeat Three Ways. This was a fantastic night and one I am looking forward to repeating. Look out for them, An evening with Rory Ellis and Arnie Cottrell is one that should not be missed. Go seek them out I promise you will not be disappointed!
Review for RMA Tavern, Southsea, Saturday, 27th August, 2005, Ann, Thu 1st, Sep 05.
Worthenbury favourite, Aussie guitarist and banjoist Rory Ellis with Alex Roberts on lap steel guitar opened on Saturday and gave our festival a brilliant plug (We have subsequently taken many bookings as a result) Playing tracks mainly from the new CD “Perfectly Damaged” including the title track and the superb Jesus Lane he captivated the audiences. Other favourites included Two Feathers from the last CD, Passenger and Home Tonight. A brilliant performance from a brilliant entertainer, backed by the beautiful playing of Alex.
Linton Festival, UK review 2010-08-06
“At each of the previous Worthenbury festivals, there has been a surprise package that has stolen the show. This year’s event was no exception to that rule, as Australian singer/guitarist Rory Ellis proved with his two warmly-received appearances on the acoustic stage. ” Supplemented by the superb playing of Alex Roberts on lap slide guitar, the man from Geelong produced a stunning mix of powerful vocals, brilliant guitar and banjo playing and hilarious chat. His two sets featured many of the tracks from his most recent album, including the title song, “Two Feathers”, a compilation of high quality original songs, which draw heavily on his eventful life. A particular highlight was “No Love in This war”, while “Home Tonight” was inspired by his spending an eternity trying to find an appropriate exit from the Leicester ring road – an ordeal that has been universally endured. Lost in Leicester, perhaps, but found by a host of admiring fans at Worthenbury. Ashamedly I must admit to not having heard of Rory Ellis before the festival . . . . wow, he was without doubt most people’s star of the day! Coming across as a Melbourne hybrid of Johnny Cash, Steve Earle and Tom Russell, his rootsy tales of childhood, politics and more were just superb, with his strumming guitar and banjo work beautifully fleshed out by Alex Roberts more intricate guitar and lap slide – this guy having driven six hours from Poole to play the set! A reprise of “Work” saw some audience participation, with another treat being the lovely “Railway Parade”, his deep, rich voice and storytelling winning over the crowd.
Review By Lionel Ross & Grahame Rhodes, BLUES AND ROOTS FESTIVAL, Worthenbury Village, June 30, 2009, Chester Chronicle.
Ellis accompanied by Tim Hackett on slide guitar, was superb. As MC, Mhari Pottinger told us, “What a voice”. And he was also funny. “How many of you have ever been in love?” he asked the audience. Not surprisingly very few hands went up. “well I was in love once, and thought i’d write a song about it all fairly predictable you think, but what followed was one of the most commanding vocal performance of the festival. Deep, rich and passionate.
Jim Tait Shetland Times Shetland Folk Festival, May 2008.
Next up was Australian Rory Ellis. He produced a spellbinding performance, playing guitar and singing his own songs, some inspired by his life in Melbourne, in a deep gruff, gravelly voice, expertly accompanied on slide guitar by Tim “The Professor” Hackett. In the darkened hall with colored lights illuminating the stage, Ellis sang of dives frequented at 3.00am, of doomed relationships of poverty and grinding hard work. A powerful brooding presence, the bald headed Ellis belted out his throaty messages about Railway Parade, where as you remove your body, your shoes stick to the carpet, and a strident Dylanesque composition about a couple being taken “from heaven to hell” and another about finding no common ground. The outstanding “Old Man Butterfly”, a song about a war veteran begging on the bus, a man glimpsed and forgotten about, was particularly passionate. The soulful desperate rendition seemed to echo from the wood panelled stage and around the hall as the audience listened intently. His influences, he said later, ranged from Johnny Cash to Elvis, to opera and all were apparent, as well as blues and rock, in a performance that was all too short and could easily have headlined the show.
Rosalind Griffiths The Shetland Times Shetland Folk Festival, May 2008.
Rory Ellis is a big bear of man from Australia. Accompanied by a marvellous slide-guitarist, he gave us some of his own songs. He has a deep growl of a voice that seems to come out of the very ground itself. Think of Chris Rea, but a lot deeper voiced. He played two of my favourite songs of his most recent album – “The Rushes” and “Road of No Return.” The latter closed his set – a slow song ending in a blinding steel guitar solo and a gentle hum of feedback from Rory’s guitar, reminiscent of the whirr of tyres on tarmac
http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/islandblogging/blogs/005281/ BBC Scotland, 7/5/08.
“What a bloody festival, ladies and gentlemen,” was Aussie singer-songwriter Rory Ellis’s gobsmacked verdict. “Do you guys do this every year?” Ellis was another standout of 2008’s line-up, wrapping shades of Satchmo, Springsteen, Tom Waits and Chris Smither in his epically rugged voice.
http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/features/Fishers-of-folk.4055291.jp The Scotsman 7/5/08