Tough Love

Atlanta bluesman Tinsley Ellis has been hard at work since forming his first edition of the Heartfixers some 34 years ago. Now 57, he shows no signs of letting up, either, which is a good thing for the guitarist's world-wide legion of fans. On Tough Love, the third album on his own Heartfixer Music label (he's got 15 others out on a variety of labels, including a batch on Alligator), he blends his blues with a lot of pop and soul sensibilities. While that might cause the 12-bar blues police to react in horror, the songs—all of them his—are infused with tremendous amounts of feeling and share the themes of lost love/losing love that are also the basis for dozens of blues standards. A good example is “Leave Me”: “It was over a long time ago but I just can't tell you to go, now leave me, if that's what your heart wants to do.” Also living up to the CD's title is “Should I Have Lied,” a solemn ode to a dissolving relationship in which he asks his crying partner “what's the use of pretending; we had a love and now it's ending. You asked me if I was yours, should I have lied?” Great songs, great playing, great singing. Tough love indeed!