“Only the truly exceptional artists, with the right mix of confidence and wit – Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tom Waits—dare to scrap the template that first won them acclaim and basically start over, with a new, often sideways approach to their craft. That’s exactly what Texas native Robert Ellis has done with his latest album, Texas Piano Man.” Men’s Journal
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 his 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. 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, Men’s Journal has premiered “Nobody Smokes Anymore,” the third track from Texas Piano Man. Of his new direction displayed on the album, the publication states “Only the truly exceptional artists, with the right mix of confidence and wit – Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tom Waits—dare to scrap the template that first won them acclaim and basically start over, with a new, often sideways approach to their craft. That’s exactly what Texas native Robert Ellis has done with his latest album, Texas Piano Man.”
NPR Music previously premiered Texas Piano Man’s lead off song, “Fucking Crazy,” while Rolling Stone Countrypremiered its accompanying video. 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.” Texas Monthly also premiered the song “Passive Aggressive,”saying, “Texas Piano Man…is pure raucous fun, eleven tunes that demand to be played at full volume while dancing around the shuffleboard table at your favorite dive” and “On Texas Piano Man, Ellis displays his mastery by blending the barrelhouse stylings of pioneering Texas musician Moon Mullican with the staccato rhythms of Elton John. The resulting sound feels like it would be at home in both a West Texas saloon and a Long Island piano bar.”
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.”
Today, Robert Ellis has announced his initial tour dates in support of Texas Piano Man. On Valentine’s Day, February 14th, Ellis will celebrate the release of the album with an in-store performance at Waterloo Records in Austin, TX. He is also scheduled to appear at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin from March 11th through the 17th. Ellis will then launch his Texas Piano Man headline tour in Oklahoma City, OK on March 23rd (please see all dates, with more to be announced, below).
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.