Fish Records Review of "Speed of Trees"
Monday, September 15, 2003
^ This is Ellis' first 'proper' album since 1998s fantastic 'Translucent Soul' (a collection that four years after its release stands up as one of the very best contemporary singer/songwriter albums around). The intervening years have seen a live album and a collection of lost studio recordings, but this is the one people have been waiting for - and nobody is going to be disappointed.
'The Speed of Trees' is a disc full of powerful but subtle songwriting, instantly strong melodies, and first rate musicians - it's very easy to listen to but has depth at every turn.
The third track 'Eighteen' is the perfect song to pick to highlight Ellis' qualities. It's a fantastic conversational style song about returning to a school reunion and reflecting on childhood, musically it's understated and sophisticated, guitar and mandolin provide the rhythm and detail above a cello backdrop, and there are some strong musical themes, including an excellent Celtic-inspired mandolin break alluding to a character in the story. It's a great song, and is strong both lyrically and musically - the best single track of the year. While 'Eighteen' may be the pick of the disc, the remaining 11 songs are universally excellent, from the upbeat 'Breaking Through the Radio', through to the acoustic title track.
There are some wonderful musicians and performances on show here, standouts are the guitar work from Duke Levine (who also produced the disc), and guest appearances from Lucy Kaplansky and Jennifer Kimball.
This is a collection that is both polished and professional, but everything comes across naturally - it has a wonderful 'casual' feel that makes this a distinct and individual album.
'The Speed of Trees' is an exceptional collection of 12 songs - it's varied, dynamic, and is one of the strongest singer/songwriter discs we've heard. Essential. ^