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01Drivin'
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Songs We Love: Robert Ellis, 'Drivin'

Songs We Love: Robert Ellis, 'Drivin'

01Drivin'
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/471302109/471302713" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Drivin'
    Album
    Robert Ellis
    Artist
    Robert Ellis
    Label
    New West Records
    Released
    2016

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Robert Ellis i

Robert Ellis Dusdin Condren/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Dusdin Condren/Courtesy of the artist
Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis

Dusdin Condren/Courtesy of the artist
Robert Ellis (New West Records 2016)

Robert Ellis (New West Records 2016) Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Breakups are heart-shattering, life-changing, momentously difficult, clinically depressing, spiritually enlightening, and many other things. They can also, at times, be tedious. Dodging vindictiveness, awkward silence and plain unavoidable pain becomes a consuming preoccupation. Good-party rage and bad-party guilt collide in breakfast nooks.

"Drivin," a track from Houston songwriter Robert Ellis' brilliant, self-titled fourth album, brings the listener into those lost moments between saying goodbye and actually leaving. Over a fast-paced arrangement colored in shades of rolling electric bluegrass, Ellis rolls out a checklist of ways to avoid that soon-to-be ex. He's ruminating, but not quite ready for a full confrontation with himself or his lover. "I've changed all the light bulbs and had this conversation about three million times or more. I guess I'll walk around the grocery store...again," he sings in his slightly tense tenor. He hits some parking lots, returns home and sweeps the floor. The painful details keep pouring out; it's like the chapter before George Jones's classic tale of domestic abandonment, "The Grand Tour." Is Ellis's narrator staving off the cruel end, or just hoping it will unfold without his full participation? He can't fully say. We've all been there.

Co-written with Angaleena Presley, another of the South's most skillful and unsparing current songwriters, "Drivin'" is one short chapter in the novel that is Ellis's new album, a cold-eyed but passionate examination of a relationship's wax and grey wane. Musically varied, impeccably structured, Robert Ellis recalls the "confessional" songwriters who set the bar in the 1970s, as well as recent Americana landmarks like Jason Isbell's Southeastern. There are traces of Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon on this cohesive work, and the laconic insight that James Taylor offers at his best. Robert Ellis is not always a light listen – the narrator bluntly claims his sins throughout – but the musical adventurousness that's in Ellis's blood makes it an irresistible one. On the road toward loneliness, Ellis holds tight to the wheel, even when he has no idea where he's going.

Robert Ellis' self-titled album is out on June 3 on New West.

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Robert Ellis

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Album
Robert Ellis
Artist
Robert Ellis

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