If you go
› What: Riverfront Nights featuring Tinsley Ellis “Blues is Dead”
› When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, 7 p.m. opener Stoned Cold Fox
› Where: 21st Century Waterfront
› Admission: Free
› Phone: 423-756-2211
› Online: riverfrontnights.com
Guitarist Tinsley Ellis should not be a stranger to music fans who have lived in the Chattanooga area for any length of time.
The Atlanta resident has been playing shows here for 35 years. Over the years, he's played at now-closed venues such as the Brass Register, the Sandbar, Michelangelo's and Rhythm & Brews. Saturday, Aug. 19, he will play on the riverfront for the first time when he headlines Riverfront Nights at 8 p.m.
All of those early shows featured him playing the blues either as a solo artist or with his band, The Heartfixers.
This weekend, he will play a show he calls Blues is Dead. It's a set filled with blues covers by the Grateful Dead and some of the other older jam bands like Cream, The Allman Brothers and Hot Tuna, who were known for melodic, hypnotic jams.
The songs let Ellis stretch his wings, so to speak, and do something different.
"I am a Dead fan, but I am more of an Allman Brothers fan. I think they took what the Dead did and perfected it. These songs are fun to play. We'll do a 10-minute set of 'Turn on Your Love Light'."
Ellis said the quartet — guitar, drums, bass and keyboards — has done the show about 20 times.
"The crowd response has been phenomenal. It's very danceable and fun. With my other shows, it's more like a guitar clinic where I change guitars so often. This is a pretty special show and I'm really excited about doing it in Chattanooga."
Ellis is well-regarded as a blues guitar player. He spent many years on the Alligator label, but today owns his own publishing company and label, Heartfixer Music. He is also married with a family.
"I'm the busiest I have ever been and I love it."
He also has a home studio, which allows him to work and record when he wants to, and when his voice is ready.
"It all allows me to be more creative," he says of wearing so many hats.
"I've always tried to keep up with the changes. Whether it's social media, doing your own publicity or producing your own music, you have to adapt."
He released "Get Out," the first CD on his new label, in 2013 and followed that with "Midnight Blue" in 2014, "Tough Love" in 2015 and "Red Clay Soul" last year. He is recording a new album that he hopes to have out by year's end.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
Quotes about Ellis
“Feral blues guitar…non-stop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor’s edge… his eloquence dazzles…he achieves pyrotechnics that rival Beck and Clapton.”
— Rolling Stone
“Ellis unleashed a torrent of dazzling musicianship pitched somewhere between the exhilarating volatility of rock and roll and the melancholic passion of urban blues.”
— Los Angeles Times
“Raw and righteous, funky and strong.”
— Village Voice