More People Really Should Know About: Kate Ellis

Photo: @bullfishfighter

Amid today’s obsession with genre labelling (is this country, is this pop, is this….whatever), it feels all the more important to cherish artists whose priorities run counter to the marketing spin, sinister algorithms and other such influences. In seeking such an artist that certainly deserves greater recognition Kate Ellis soon sprung to this reviewer’s mind. Born in Lousiana and for many years based in London Ellis conveys emotion and empathy whether recorded or live.

Although Ellis studied law, music has always been in her life beginning with her father’s record collection. This was not the collection purely of a fan. Ellis Snr. was an accomplished guitarist who played with Hank Williams at the legendary Louisiana Hayride. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gram Parsons, Gillian Welch and Nanci Griffith feature among Ellis’s influences. Whether lyrically or vocally there are definitely touches of each but there is no doubting the originality of her own velvety voice and searching lyrics.

Quality over quantity could be the byword of Ellis and her closest musical partner, Andy Hobsbawm. She has released only two albums; her debut ‘Carve Me Out’ in 2017 and ‘Spirals’ in 2022. If not a prolific tourer her performances are as absorbing as the music she records.

‘Carve Me Out’ is a subtle blend of country and folk that together allows full range to the versatility of her voice. The haunting ‘Ones You Love The Most’ heaves with emotion and sadness. Being connected is a priority for Ellis, an aim she certainly achieves. The more jaunty ‘Don’t Lie To Me’, points towards her country roots. ‘Spirals’  has a more layered sound compared to its predecessor as she delves deeper into the innermost feelings of people, often those very close. It’s those nearest us with whom we often struggle the most to communicate. Ellis has no such difficulty as she listens, empathises and encourages. She describes ‘Spirals’ as a collection of songs that came out of a process of soul searching, “to quieten the thought storms in my head and find my balance in the world”. ‘Bluebirds And Rye’ is a soothing message of support from a mother to ease her daughter’s anxieties. Deeply personal, Ellis wrote this for her own daughter in whom she sees her younger self. All will work out in the end because “there’ll always be bluebirds and rye”. More folk than country her deep sincerity and calm radiate a profound tenderness. Long-standing collaborator Andy Hobsbawm co-wrote four of the songs on the album, as well as playing acoustic guitar throughout. The album also includes a song he wrote himself. A full-on country rocker ‘Scars’ is a dysfunctional love story that charts the fine line between love and hate. If the inspiration was a “thought storm” then ‘Spirals’ charts a course to calmer, more reflective waters.

‘Spirals’ received high praise from AUK. Rating the album 9/10 Michael Macy summarised it as, “ absolute joy. An irrefutable, unquestionable joy. This is her second album, yet it reflects a mature view of the world, one that sees things clearly, without gilding the lily or throwing perfume on the violet”.

Ellis and Hobsbawm are working on some songs that will form the basis of a new album but as ever they are in no hurry, preferring to satisfy themselves they have got these just right before proceeding to recording. In the meantime they have some dates coming up this summer. Wood Festival on May 18th, Arundel Music Festival July 20th and Brightlingsea Music Festival on August 4th are confirmed with a further (‘big’) festival appearance to be fixed. Then more people will know about Kate Ellis.

About Lyndon Bolton 140 Articles
Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments