When this series started Clint West set out our stall, which was “to give a nod of appreciation to those current artists, who whilst not big stars, are the backbone and the lifeblood of americana music”. We have included some surprisingly well-known names who regularly play in more intimate venues. For some when you see them you feel, and hope, that these gigs are a stepping stone on the way to greatness. One such is Our Man In The Field.
I’ve followed Alex Ellis’ career since reviewing his excellent album, ‘In the Company of Strangers’ late in 2020. A year later I was at a sparsely attended gig at a pub in Newport where he and pedal steel player Henry Senior supported Jerry Joseph. On chatting to him afterwards I found Alex to have a passion for his music and the drive to go places with it. The first of those places was Kickstarter to finance a trip to Portland, Oregon to record with renowned producer Tucker Martine. He set up a WhatsApp group to document progress and brought his audience into the process of creating the new album.
So, nearly another year on he continues to play small venues around London but has taken another crucial career step. Jerry Joseph was originally listed as support for The Delines shows in July but then popped up with Drive By Truckers in May. With a warmup date with Our Man In the Field in London it isn’t a long stretch to imagine Joseph recommending Alex as warm up act to another Portland based band. And so, Alex is now touring Germany & The UK with The Delines. This is still very much in small venue territory, I’ll be at The Fleece in Bristol, capacity 450 jam packed, and the other venues are similarly sized. With their album ‘The Sea Drift’ almost universally praised, not least at AUK, this is a great platform for Our Man In the Field to build the audience for his new album.
In earlier times musicians and composers built their careers on patronage. While rich people may not bankroll artists anymore, the support of places like Kickstarter and Patreon ensures a flow of money that helps them build their careers. The support of fellow artists is also vital, and Alex Ellis now seems to be firmly plugged into the Portland, Oregon scene. While much of the americana scene remains in the small venues it’s not hard to imagine him being whisked off to the US for a big-league support tour. I’m looking forward to seeing him live, and his new music, and when Ellis is the superstar, we all hope he will be, I will be able to talk about the times he played the pubs and actually spoke to me…