Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Matt Oliver
When you get to the end of Robert Ellis' new album, "Photographs," he's convinced you of what we've never wanted to believe: The love that we're experiencing right now, the one that's going well, that feels like it couldn't ever tumble, felt the same way to those sad and sorry, old people over there so we'll just have to see how it all goes. Ellis, the young Houston songwriter, who just released his first on New West Records, seems to know a thing or two about the tough odds and the vagaries that love gets away with. The real toxic mixture is the whole love meets time thing where, if the situation is given enough time, it's bound to unravel and fray. It's bound to take some liberties and stop looking both ways when crossing streets, or maybe looking in twice as many directions as its crossing streets. Ellis spends the bulk of his time pursuing that never stale thought of getting home to his baby, working through the roads that he's going to take to get there, the feeling that comes to him when he hits certain junctions or interstates. He's been tracing over the tracks he's going to take and he's been keeping going with gallons of coffee, plenty of cigarettes and cold slaps to the face, just to get home for that return kiss, for the chance to hold the girl in his arms again, for the first time. He's thinking all of those thoughts that he's hated to think, that's he's tried to keep out, but with the amount of time he's been away, there's a part of him that wouldn't blame her if she had gotten restless and taken interest in someone who was actually there for her, who could keep her warm when he couldn't. It's the idea that drives him batty, that makes him mentally think about poking out eyes and stomping on little feet, as he does on the song, "No Fun." He sings, "And don't you think just cause I'm nice I can't be mean/I'll make this one thing plain and clear/If you ever cheat on me you better get on outta here/Don't you go out dancin' while I'm sittin' here at home/You better not be romancin' talkin' sweet with anyone/In fact, if I ain't around you better not even have any fun/With anyone/Don't have no fun with anyone." It's something like a paranoia that overcomes him as he's out pounding the pavement, going from town to town, doing what troubadours do. He's likely getting his fair share of come-ons, but the threat is in place that his lonely lady back home had better not doing anything questionable. We believe in the little lady though. We have a feeling that she's being true and you think that the men in these songs, want to believe that too. They've found the good one. This is the one that they're going to paint rooms together with. This is the one that they see a future with, though you just never know. There's a hesitation and a niggling little bit of doubt. Then there's the whole idea of what's going to happen decades down the line. Ellis also insists that there's nothing good about growing old so where does that leave us when thinking about withstanding the impossible -- getting a love that doesn't fall apart? He sings, "We might make it through/I like your cookin' and you're real good lookin'/I could see myself gettin' old with you," and you'd like to wrap yourself up in the naivete of it. You want for it to be so easy as to wash out any and all other fears. Ellis is hoping for good love prevailing and old age not being such a bitch, but damn if both of those aren't huge hopes to swallow. It explains why he makes country songs and it explains why they're so good.