Following in the footsteps of their own 2019 debut release, The Ellis Mano Band returns from the studio with their sophomore effort Ambedo. The quartet sticks mostly to the original formula by turning out another ten-song set focused on well-constructed tunes that provide a brisk listen, even if they don’t break new musical ground.
Some tracks display a bit of edginess reminiscent of Here And Now’s “Whiskey,” but the majority of the album drifts in and out of personal reflectives contained within jazzy blues structures and moods. All of the tracks are valuable contributions to this collection, but depending on the listener, certain numbers will garner more spins than others. The harder blues-inflected songs and moments seem unlikely to appeal as much to the fans of the softer, pensive tunes and vice versa.
The contrast appears immediately in the album’s first two songs. “The Horrible Truth,” with Edis Mano’s warm, powerful guitar tone, cuts through the mix with an enjoyable riff that drives the steely-eyed commentary on the modern world. Chris Ellis’s voice, bolstered with just a touch of echo compliments the straightforward delivery of the Ellis Mano take on blues rock. “Sweet Sin” follows with similar technical strengths but a completely different attitude. It is also a good song, but it relies more on the nuance inherent in the individual talents of the group members than its predecessor which hits hard and sticks in the ear.
“Ambedo Mind,” belongs to the more laid-back grouping of songs with its opening horn salvos and cooing background vocals. Ellis adds to this feel by dropping the gruff, visceral punch of his rocker voice and singing in a higher, gentler register. “Johnny & Susie,” “Long Road,” and “Breakfast” also share this approach. All feature solid writing and some great, if brief, guitar chops from Mano.
If a complaint were to be levied it might be that a couple of the minutes spent on “Breakfast” be shifted to the more dynamic, “The Question.” Like “Keep It Simple”—potentially the best song of the bunch—”The Question” leans more on rock n’ roll with a heavier tone and some excellent hammond organ fills courtesy of Lachy Doley.
One of the more interesting cuts from Ambedo is “The Fight For Peace.” The closest example of a compromise between the two styles, the subject matter provokes thought as can be inferred from the title, and the overall mood can be best described as brooding, even if the instrumentation isn’t as fiery as “The Horrible Truth.” It makes the best use of the backing vocalists and Ellis’s range is impressive. “Heart n’ Mind” fittingly wraps up the set with a song that is both sweeping and soaring, and works well as a closing statement within the flow of the album.
The strengths of Ambedo tend to lie in places where either Ellis or Mano feature—after all, it is The Ellis Mano Band. Nico Looser (Drums), Severin Graf (Bass), and a handful of other musicians excel as well, but they assume a supportive role to the prime movers. There will undoubtedly be listeners who love both groupings of songs, but more likely listeners will love either the harder numbers or the jazzier, story-based tunes, while liking all of the tracks. The musicianship is top-notch, and the songs well-written, including more than a few revelatory musical moments. Ambedo plays close to the band’s strengths, and that’s just fine. It is very good music.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– The Horrible Truth
– The Fight For Peace
– Keep It Simple
– Heart n’ Mind
The Big Hit
– Keep It Simple