Here’s the hook: apparently Lauren Ellis won a 1999 Los Angeles Music Award in the category of Outstanding Guitarist. That’s all well and good, but what has she done for me lately?
Here’s the story: Ellis is an undeniably hella good guitarist, but not a great songwriter. She has the traditional one-too-many-bourbons throaty rasp voice, but none of the passion. Her new album was actually recorded in 2002, and it’s really all just a little bit meh. So much so that I can’t even be bothered to listen to it in the 5.1 surround sound offered by the unusual DualDisc format.
Here’s the verdict: if you’re the sort of sad sick geek that collects guitarists, adores technique and cares nothing for songs, then you might like Feels Like Family because Ellis displays virtuoso abilities on accoustic, electric and lap steel guitars while delivering songs in every kind of style—except reggae. And if you’re excited by the fact that it’s a blonde(ish) woman slinging the six string action then you’ll get more out of Lauren Ellis than I do, because I’m an equal opportunities critic and I can see no reason to forgive the mundanity of her performances simply because she has ovaries. This is not the 1970s, and being a “woman in rock” is not an end in itself.
Here’s the twist: the third track on Feels Like Family is called “End of the Line”, and it’s almost marvellous. It’s a blues piece with the oh-so sophisticated ‘80s feel that can only come from a man with bad highlights, designer stubble, an expensive tan and the sleeves of his Armani jacket rolled up to the elbow. It’s the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman” on qualudes. It’s Ellis delivering a near uncanny Sade impression. “A woman thinks her man is gonna change/ And a man thinks his baby won’t.” This song, my friends, this song is why they invented iTunes.