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Nick Ellis Nick Ellis
Album: Daylight Ghosts
Label: Mellowtone
Tracks: 12

Given a soft vinyl release last November and now a bigger CD push, this is the Liverpool-based singer-songwriter's debut, recorded over just six hours, in single takes, in the Liverpool St.George's Hall Crown Court Room, in which the last man to hang in Britain was sentenced.

Dubbed Liverpool's answer to Michael Chapman and likened to John Martyn, Ellis works in a rhythmically urgent, fingerpicked, acoustic bluesy style, his skill on the acoustic guitar showcased on the album's three nimbly executed instrumentals, the album closer, 'Raise The Arc', having a courtly medieval feel.

Meanwhile, his songs are drawn from the stories of "the ignored, unloved, the defeated" and those on the fringes of society, isolated and excluded through such issues as mental health, education, opportunity and confidence.

Conformity and those who enforce it for their own end provides the subject of folk blues album opener the 'The Grand Illusion', be it religious views or the nine to five grind "There's always someone new to you who likes to tell you what to do. Who pushes and pokes and prods and points the finger."

Using his guitar box for percussion, built on the circling melody line 'Hanging Around' has a similar bent in that it's about being stuck in one place for too long, while the depression that stagnation and the gradual erosion of hope can bring in today's generation rent when "expectations cannot overtake the minimum wage" finds expression in the six minute percussive blues 'St David's Day' with lines like "Nobody seemed to understand why Jacqui had an accident after the morning they raised up the rent or why her boyfriend hung himself" and how "Somebody took an overdose, beat up the baby then gave up the ghost and left Fridays post there on the stairs and nobody cares."

However, while he may have the media in his sights on 'The Early Morning News', a folksier troubadour number about fake news tabloid stories and "those breakfast shows and all their boring views", he's not only about cynicism and disillusion. While he may sing about kissing in fear and question "am I just in love with being in love with you?" the rhythmically jerky 'Lovers In July' (where he reminds me of a Liverpool Labi Siffre) can't disguise a romantic's heart. Likewise, in the snapshot vignettes of the throatily burping electric guitar boogie 'In The Park' (think Blur meets Small Faces) and its urban companion piece, 'Walk Through The City', with its cheap market stalls, an old couple sitting in a bar, the mother telling off her child, the plaque marking a tragedy glow with a genuine affection, both promoting thoughts of the woman he loves.

Then there's the suitably ringing guitar lines of the soaringly sung 'Carillon' about how even the least likely can have inner beauty and goodness as he sings "Something opened up and bathed you in light. It's hardly like yourself to keep heaven in your pocket. It must have been your Carillon." It's hard too, not to feel a warmth and an aching tug at the heart as you listen to the gentle and poignant, open and honest regret of 'My Old Flame', as, having a drink with an old girlfriend, he notes no ring on her fingers as he sits there talking about the ghosts of the past and "my greatest mistake with my old flame". Whether he brings tales of troubled or tenderness, you'll be haunted.

Mike Davies