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CD Review: Tony Ellis - Sounds Like Bluegrass To Me!


Copper Creek CCCD-0174

Tracks: My Long Journey Home / Will You Be Loving Another Man / Shortenin Bread / Red Rocking Chair / Tragic Romance / The Old Cross Road / Sweet Sunny South / Turkey In The Straw / Nine Pound Hammer / Walking With You In My Dreams / My Cabin In Caroline / Cruel Willy / Poor Ellen Smith / There’s A Man Going Around Taking Names / I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow / My Home’s Across The Blue Ridge Mountains.

Personnel: Tony Ellis; Lester Woodie (Stanley Bros: fiddle/vocals); Tom Gray (Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene: Bass/vocals); Dudley Connell (Johnson Mountain Boys, Seldom Scene, Longview: guitar/vocals.

By Ivon Evans

Born in 1939, Tony Ellis sings and plays the banjo. He has had a long and varied career playing with Bill Monroe and Tommy Jarrell, among others. He plays the banjo in an Old-Timey - Bluegrassy style, and although this is a Bluegrass CD it is played ‘mountain style’, sounding more like ‘sitting on the back porch’ music than the kind you hear in concert.

The sixteen tracks include three instrumentals: Shortenin’ Bread, Turkey in the Straw and Cruel Willy. The first named is banjo-led and the last is a fine Old-Timey fiddle tune. Turkey in the Straw was surprising in that both fiddle and banjo play throughout but the banjo doesn’t take a break!

The pick of the thirteen vocals tracks are: Bill Monroe’s Will You Be Loving Another Man, which is modelled on Monroe’s version with it’s high pitched tenor vocal; the traditional Red Rocking Chair, based on a 1920’s version of the song by Fleming Brown; Charlie Monroe’s Walking With You In My Dreams (although this version was inspired by The Shady Valley Boys in the 1950’s); There’s A Man Going Around Taking Names, which was recorded in 1928 by The Carolina Tar Heels (though this version was learned from old time musician Tommy Thompson).

Tony Ellis
Photo © Dave Crowley, Irby, Cheshire UK. Write to

All the songs are good but my two favourites are a fine version of Grandpa Jones’ Tragic Romance and a brilliant version of the old murder ballad Poor Ellen Smith, which is a true story of a murder committed in 1892 - it’s as good as any version I’ve ever heard.

This is one of those CDs where the artists sound as if they are really enjoying themselves. I have seen music described as Bluegrass Music done Mountain style and this really sums up this project. All in all a very enjoyable CD and well worth a listen.

Available from Mike’s Country Music Room. 18 Hilton Ave., Aberdeen, AB24-4RE. 01224-488526

Ivon Evans, Sunderland.


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26th Nov 1999