Dennis Ellsworth – Things Change (Pyramid Scheme)
Right after Bruce Springsteen finished 1987’s Tunnel of Love, he recorded a legendary, long-lost album with fellow New Jerseyites Yo La Tengo, which for its 30thanniversary in 2018 is finally being—oh, wait, no, that’s not it at all.
No, this is a new record by P.E.I. songwriter Dennis Ellsworth, his fifth.
Ellsworth is a new name to me, as I suspect he is to you—although his last couple of albums came out on Kitchener label Busted Flat, and were produced by either Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers) or David Barbe (Bob Mould’s Sugar), and featured many of my favourite Ontario musicians. This time out, he headed east to Joel Plaskett’s New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, N.S., with other Halifax Pop Explosion veterans Charles Austin and Dave Marsh. So, yes, fans of ’90s indie rock and singer-songwriters will find plenty to love here, with shades of Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams. Ellsworth’s songs are as worthy as any found in the canon of those artists: he has an incredibly strong sense of melody, writing songs to be sung at the top of your lungs, whether they’re anthems like “The Bottom” or “Stoned,” or dream pop songs like “Caught in the Waves.” Plaskett once again proves his mettle as a producer—as heard on his own work as well as Mo Kenney and others—giving Ellsworth a gritty rock’n’roll backdrop with rich, Big Star vocal harmonies.
It’s hard to imagine topping Things Change, but the good news is that I—and likely you—also now have a whole lot more music by Dennis Ellsworth to discover. (April 20)
Stream: “The Bottom,” “Save All Your Tears,” “Cruel But Beautiful”