The Lights of The Chemical Plant is the third studio album from Texan singer songwriter Robert Ellis, it's a superb example of the delicate craft of songwriting. A strong narrative anchors each song against a musical backdrop that effortlessly melds different styles from plaintive country to stripped bare acoustic folk. Each song resonates sharply with shades of loneliness and despair, Ellis possesses a distinct and haunting voice, every word is delivered with great expression and left to linger. The album was produced by Jacquire King who is known for his work with The Kings of Leon, Dawes and The Punch Brothers among many others, he offers a sympathetic approach to each song nothing is layered or over produced.
The album opens with the wry TV Song a humorous take on losing yourself to the wiles of your imagination. In the humour you can still hear something desperate about the situation, the idea that life is better on the other side of the screen in someone else's shoes.
I'm a gunfighter, I'm a bull rider
I'm the captain of some pirate ship at sea
For a couple hours I got superpowers
Oh my God I love watching my TV
The title track is a mesmerising tale of a young couple in a small town, the lights of the nearby chemical plant illuminate their lives. Ellis captures the beauty of life long love alongside the despair of eventual loss, the song has an ominous percussive tone alongside an ethereal melody. Bottle of Wine is Ellis at his desperate best, engulfed in sadness and regret only a bottle of wine and a bag of cocaine keeps him going. In a tribute to the troubadours before him there is a cover of the Paul Simon classic Still Crazy After All These Years, which Ellis delivers with assured charisma, it captures the jazzy elements that Simon himself pursued on that album.
The nostalgic Houston has an amazing prog inspired ending, cascading guitar melodies and crashing drums bring a chapter to a close. For all that it held Ellis is leaving Houston behind, a more experienced somewhat chastened person. This an album inspired by the honest and heartfelt songwriters like Paul Simon who sang about love and loss in such a personal way that it was deeply affecting to the listener. Lights From The Chemical Plant achieves the same feeling it's an album that stirs something deep, a must listen.