Tinsley Ellis

Blues & Rock MusicianBuy TicketsEnhance your Kate experience with Membership!

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“An exciting, emotional guitarist and a strong, evocative songwriter…One of modern blues’ greatest performers.” –Vintage Guitar

“A legend of American blues music…An American music treasure…Ellis delivers a sermon on the power and glory of the blues.” –Premier Guitar

“Powerful, spine-tingling guitar and gritty, soulful vocals.” –Relix

According to Atlanta-based blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Tinsley Ellis, his new, first-ever solo acoustic album, Naked Truth, is both “a departure and an arrival.” Ellis has been recording and travelling the world for over four decades, delivering his feral, guitar-fueled, original electric blues-rock to ever-growing audiences at concert halls, festivals, and clubs. Naked Truth is steeped in the folk blues traditions of Muddy Waters, Skip James, Son House, Robert Johnson and even Leo Kottke. To the casual fan, this might seem to be a new direction, but for Ellis, it’s an extension of his music, as he taps into the raw essence of the blues. “This is a record I’ve always wanted to make, and one that my longtime fans have been asking for,” he says, noting he’s included an acoustic mini-set in his concert performances for years. In the last 12 months, Ellis has already performed over 100 solo shows, many as co-bills with his Alligator label-mate Marcia Ball. “I’m having so much fun playing these shows,” he says.

On Naked Truth (his 21st album), Ellis swaps his blistering, guitar-fueled full band workouts for equally passionate, soul-searching acoustic folk blues. His famed guitar chops and musical creativity are on full display throughout the album’s 12 songs, including nine newly written originals. Naked Truth was produced by Ellis, with the foot-stomping cover of Son House’s Death Letter Blues produced by Atlanta roots musician Eddie 9V. The album was recorded live in the studio using Ellis’ beloved 1969 Martin D-35 (a gift from his father) and his 1937 National Steel O Series guitars. Whether intricately fingerpicking the Martin or playing hair-raising slide on the National Steel, Ellis delivers each song with unvarnished intimacy.

The opener, Ellis’ original Devil In The Room, comes from an expression Ellis’ close friend, the late Col. Bruce Hampton, would tell his musicians just before a show was about to begin (“We’re here to put the devil in the room,” he’d say). From the original, Skip James-inspired Windowpane to the Delta-styled Tallahassee Blues, to the humorous Grown Ass Man, Ellis goes deep, singing and playing the blues’ honest truths. The inclusion of four introspective instrumentals (including a transcendent cover of Leo Kottke’s A Soldier’s Grave On The Prairie, a song he’s been playing live for almost 50 years) adds even more depth and substance to an album overflowing with riches. Each song carries the weight, experience and hard-earned wisdom Ellis learned over four decades on the road, infusing Naked Truth with an emotional authenticity that is palpable from start to finish.

Tinsley Ellis has been immersed in music his whole life. Born in Atlanta 1957 and raised in southern Florida, he acquired his first guitar at age seven, inspired by seeing The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. He took to guitar instantly, developing and sharpening his skills as he grew up. Like many kids his age, Ellis discovered the blues through the back door of British Invasion bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream and The Rolling Stones as well as Southern rockers like The Allman Brothers. One afternoon after high school in 1972, he and a friend were listening to Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield’s Super Session record when his friend’s older brother told them that, if they liked Super Session, they should go see B.B. King, who was in town that week. Tinsley saw that show from the very front row. As fate would have it, King broke a guitar string while playing, and after changing it without missing a beat, he handed the broken string to young Tinsley. And yes, Tinsley still has that string.

Less than three years later, Ellis, already an accomplished teenaged musician, left Florida and moved to Atlanta. He soon joined a hard-driving local blues band, the Alley Cats. In 1981, along with veteran blues singer and harpist Chicago Bob Nelson, Tinsley formed The Heartfixers, a group that would become Atlanta’s top-drawing blues band. After cutting four Heartfixers albums (three for the Landslide label), Ellis was ready to step out on his own.

Georgia Blue, Tinsley’s first Alligator release, hit the unprepared public by surprise in 1988, as press and radio brought his music to more people than ever before. His next four releases—1989’s Fanning The Flames, 1992’s Trouble Time, 1994’s Storm Warning, and 1997’s Fire It Up—further grew his reputation as well as his audience. (His song A Quitter Never Wins, a highlight of Storm Warning, was recorded by Jonny Lang, selling almost two million copies.) Features and reviews ran in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and in many other national and regional publications. And he backed it all up performing hundreds of nights per year. Rolling Stonedeclared, “Feral blues guitar…non-stop gigging has sharpened his six-string to a razor’s edge…his eloquence dazzles…he achieves pyrotechnics that rival Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.”

In the early 2000s, Ellis released albums on Capricorn Records and on Telarc, returning to Alligator in 2005 with Live–Highwayman, which captured the fifth-gear energy of his roof-raising live show. He followed it with two more incendiary studio albums, 2007’s Moment Of Truth and 2009’s Speak No Evil. He self-released four successful albums on his own Heartfixer label before coming back home to Alligator in 2018. That year, he released the fan favorite Winning Hand, followed by 2020’s Ice Cream In Hell just before the pandemic sidelined all touring. With 2022’s Devil May Care, Ellis embarked on another relentless, coast-to-coast tour, further cementing his reputation as one of the most prolific and exciting blues rockers on the scene.

Tinsley Ellis has brought his music to fans live in person to all 50 United States, as well as in Canada, across Europe, Australia and South America. He’s earned the love and respect of many of his fellow musicians, having shared stages with Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, The Allman Brothers, Warren Haynes, Oliver Wood, Buddy Guy, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, and more. Over the years, legends including Otis Rush, James Cotton, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Buffett, Son Seals, Koko Taylor and Albert Collins invited Ellis to join them on stage. Mega-star guitarist Joe Bonamassa calls Ellis “a national treasure.”

Now, with Naked Truth, Ellis will bring his music directly to his fans. “Two guitars and a car,” he says of the simplicity of his North American touring situation. “When folks come to see me, I’ll have the guitars I used on the record with me, so what fans hear on the album is what they’ll get live. It’s not easy. Now I’m the whole band and there’s nowhere to hide. It’s scary every single time I go up on stage alone. But nothing could be more honest.”

Naked Truth is a revelation. Stripped of the electric fervor that defined his previous works, Ellis’ acoustic music carries a rawness that speaks directly from his soul. The songs unveil another side of Tinsley Ellis, but one that is totally recognizable to his fans. His gruff, full-throated vocals intertwine seamlessly with the bare, acoustic arrangements, creating an album that is both timeless and immediate. No Depression says, “Ellis shines. When the tempo slows, the intensity doesn’t waver.” Blues Music Magazine states, “Tinsley Ellis is a powerful and commanding presence. His music is impossible not to enjoy.”

 

Parking

The Kate parking map - accessible parking is available on Main Street and in the parking lot behind the Kate

Parking at the Kate is free and easy! There is not one dedicated parking lot; however, there is ample parking surrounding the venue.

Parking on the street is limited and shared by all Main Street merchants. We ask that you consider one of the suggested off-street parking locations in blue where Kate patrons have permission to park.

Shows start promptly at the time posted to our website and printed on your tickets. Planning to arrive 15 minutes prior to the show is always a great idea—plus, it give you a few minutes to explore the Katharine Hepburn Museum!

Directions

The Kate is located at 300 Main Street in downtown Old Saybrook, a short distance from the I-95 corridor as well as the Route 9/I-95 interchange. Get Driving Directions

Concessions/Bar

The Kate’s Concessions/Bar area is open for most shows, offering bottled water, soda, juice, and a selection of movie theater candy. For those 21 and over, a selection of beer, wine, prosecco, and simple mixed cocktails are available.

Cash or credit cards are accepted and beverages purchased at the Kate may be taken into the theater.

Concessions/bar may not be available for all performances and selections may vary. For more information, contact the Box Office at (860) 510-0453.

Nearby Dining Options

Consider one of the many great nearby restaurants for a bite to eat before or after the show. To explore options, check out our Dining page.

The Kate theater is located on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Cultural Arts Center. The orchestra level is accessible by elevator from the 1st floor lobby; the balcony is accessible only via stairs. Accessible seating locations may vary slightly by event and are clearly identified on the interactive seating chart for each performance. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Box Office at (860) 510-0453. For additional information, please reference our Box Office & Theater Policies.

Seating chart

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