The “Big Man” is back with his new album Inner Outlaw, this time in the guise of a Buck ‘Ned Kelly’ Rogers in the 21st century proving that Rory Ellis can, with one hand, bring out a bang up to date country outlaw album but still keep one foot in the past.
Case in point is the gold bullet in the chamber track ‘The Letter’ (the 5th song on the album). In 1940, a handwritten letter of lament was placed inside a whiskey bottle. It was then buried underneath cement in the Church Street Bridge in Melbourne, Australia before it was discovered by workers jackhammering into the cement 77 years later. The bottle contained a powerful letter from a soldier and his workmate, pleading and praying for peace and equal rights. The letter eventually found its way back to Australian singer-songwriter Rory Ellis, who turned out to be the letter writer’s grandson. With a story like that – the song just had to be written.
The album rolls in with ‘The Next Shipwreck’, an introspective number with that guttural growl of the ‘Ellis’ vocal hitting you like a slap in the face from a random rouge wave. It chugs along nicely with drums, interlaced Dobro and an undercurrent of tremolo effect guitar and is a great intro for the rest of the album.
I got first hooked on Rory Ellis back in 2003 when I heard the song Miguelito from the album Road Of The Braver Man.
“’Miguelito’ was also one of my favourite songs, such an amazing man… He is still alive and living now in Uruguay. He was my surrogate dad after mine died when I was 18 and he got me out of living in that boxing gym in Dandenong, where many of us were just punching bags for the better fighters. He taught me so much about fighting and life. I was a lost soul back then; he gave me direction.” Rory Ellis
Below is a version of the song from 2008 (from the folking archive) which was recorded as part of the folking live concerts we used to run.
Inner Outlaw has more of a country twang than Rory’s older material and the title track ‘Inner Outlaw’ is a good example of that, as it drags you off kicking and screaming to an Australian themed Boot Hill camp but still having the decency to allow a stop off on route for a swig of bourbon at Old Gran Opry’s (any new Country music venues can have that one for free J).
‘Invisible Arrows’ slows things right down and if you thought Ellis’ voice could not go any lower, then think again as this song fires at the heart of the narrative, waltzing the victim in front of the firing line before becoming an evitable cupid human pin cushioned target.
‘Fadin’’ has a Tarantino feel to it and ‘Slippin’ Down’ takes that gravel path voice down another notch or two after the jolly little dobro intro. In fact, the track skips along nicely masking that fact the storyboard is about to go south.
Another stand out track for me is ‘Cross On The Hill’. It has a vein of that crunchy nut cornflake guitar running through it, employed so well by artists like Knopfler on tracks like ‘Money For Nothing’ and it plays out very well, conjuring images of dusty dirt tracks with something sinister about to happen on the horizon.
The final five tracks are: ‘53rd Year’, ‘No Oil Painting’, ‘The Station’, ‘Bitumen Cowboys’ and ‘What Happened to That Man’. All in all, it’s a solid album but for me, there is nothing there that surpasses ‘Miguelito’ but then again, it’s almost impossible to top a deeply ingrained song that you are emotionally tied to.
Artists’ website: https://roryellis.com/
‘The Letter’ – official video:
‘Miguelito’ – from the folking archives: