Texas Piano Man (New West)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., April 5, 2019
Robert Ellis begins his fifth album with a simple warning: "I'm fucking crazy, you know that it's true." Crooning in his nasally tenor atop a soft bed of keys in latest incarnation Texas Piano Man, Ellis remains brilliantly elusive, torquing songs in unexpected directions. The now-local songwriter wings tight piano-pop melodies into a shredder, Leon Russell meets Harry Nilsson with a touch of Father John Misty's sadistic sarcasm inviting you along for the ride. Not that Ellis doesn't sling sincerity, but he swivels between jarringly biting ("Passive Aggressive," "Fucking Crazy," "There You Are"), playfully upbeat ("Nobody Smokes Anymore," "Topo Chico"), and quirky sentimentality ("When You're Away," "Let Me In"). Robert Ellis could craft perfect pop and country earworms and polished ballads, but where's the fun in that? Don't say he didn't warn you.