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Ellis Hooks
Another Saturday Morning

Evidence Music, Inc.

Review by JamesSkyy Dobro” Walker
16 songs; 58:27 minutes; Recommended 

Out of the mouths of babes: “Dad, this album has a 1960s sound – that rocking Soul music.” That spot on assessment came from my 26-year-old daughter after hearing the first two songs. She has both thoughtfully and subconsciously listened all her young life to the music I have played. It is no coincidence the Stax and Muscle Shoals sound permeates many songs. Producer, writer, and player Jon Tiven produced and wrote the late Wilson Pickett's comeback album It's Harder Now (recipient of three W.C. Handy Awards and a Grammy nomination). Tiven knew what he had found in a chance meeting with Ellis Hooks January 2000.

Echoes of the Stax/Volt horn section are heard as the very first notes of both the first track “Black Dirt” and the second track, “You Move Too Fast.” Amazingly, that horn section is one man, Jon Tiven on alto and tenor saxophones. While Ellis Hooks is a polished guitar player and is pictured as such in the liner notes, he picks nary a note on this CD, his third for Evidence Music since 2003. All the emphasis is on Hooks’ sensual, gravelly tenor voice (witness Steve Marriott meets Otis Redding) while Tiven additionally handles guitar, sitar, Hammond organ, harmonica, and percussion. Tiven’s wife Sally plays bass with no less than seven guests on drums. Tiven’s production on these sixteen originals is studiously concise; not a wasted note. Do the arithmetic: sixteen songs in 58+ minutes means no song goes more than a few seconds past four minutes (several closer to three).

“I love almost all kinds of music. If it moves my soul, then it moves me!” says Ellis Hooks.   Ellis attributes his Soul style to his hometown roots, “I think that maybe comes from the church.”            The 13th child of an African-American Alabama sharecropper and his Cherokee bride, Hooks got kicked out of the Baptist choir in his preadolescent years when he discovered that Sam Cooke sang more than gospel. It was from there that he headed on his own into other territories like soul, blues, and rock.

Ellis Hooks sure got soul with songs like “Do I Ever Cross Your Heart.” His voice has a range that plunges up and down the scale, and packs an emotional punch that should make even the most stoical blues critics take notice.

You can hear authentic emotion on “Your River”, the title track, and bonus track “If I Give You My Heart For Christmas.” None of these originals are twelve-bar blues selections, but never mind. Blues feeling is intertwined into Ellis’ songs via his raw and heart felt vocals. For example, guys, relate to his passing-pubescence-leads-to-heartbreak-song “Churchyard Girl.”

Ellis Hooks’ bio reveals he has a Ph.D. from the school of hard knocks, but his tremendous efforts and musical support from the Tivens have all paid off in spades, again.

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