Prince Edward Island musician Dennis Ellsworth is currently on the road promoting his third solo effort Dusk Dreams. Released a little over two weeks ago on Busted Flat Records (also home to NB musicians including Matt Andersen), Ellsworth’s newest release is perhaps his best to date. Dusk Dreams is an in-depth yet delicate tour through modern roots music with hints of alt.country thrown into the mix.
Dennis Ellsworth will be performing a special matinee at Plan B Lounge on St. George Street, starting at 4:00 p.m on Sunday.
Ellsworth has been making music since the time he was 15 years old. In addition to his solo works, Ellsworth is also the leader of PEI roots band Haunted Hearts. The status of Haunted Hearts, winners of four Music PEI awards at the start of 2011, is currently undefined as per Ellsworth although he insists that no doors have been permanently closed on the future of the band.
“Maybe you could call it a bit of a hiatus?” Ellsworth says rhetorically. “We have some shows booked for the band and have a new album ready to be recorded, so we are definitely not done. Each of us in the band has other projects on the go that just kind of took over and forced a break upon us.”
In the past, a band member “breaking away” from a group to make a solo record often signaled dissent in the band ranks however in the case of Ellsworth and Haunted Hearts, his solo work is merely another facet of what he does as an artist. Considering the fact that Dusk Dreams is Ellsworth’s third solo effort, it is probably safe to assume that his Haunted Heart band mates are comfortable with him making music outside of the confines of their band.
“In order for me to make touring affordable, to stay busy and build momentum, going the solo route is a good option. For years I struggled with wearing too many hats but to be perfectly honest, I tend to write a lot of material so it was nice to have an outlet to place those songs.”
Ellsworth shares that the bulk of Dusk Dreams was written over the course of last winter and the spring, although one of the tracks (Electric Stars) is four years old while the song Apple of My Eye was written the day before he began recording Dusk Dreams.
Produced by David Barbe (Sugar, Drive-By Truckers), Ellsworth decamped to Barbe’s homestate of Georgia to make Dusk Dreams, a move that Dennis insists was important to his overall vision for the record.
“Getting out of the Maritimes was a necessity when it came to making this record,” Ellsworth says. “I wanted to make a record with a world class sound but also wanted the challenge of being out of my comfort zone. Being 30 hours from home and playing with people I had just met accomplished just that.”
Asked what Barbe brought to the making of Dusk Dreams, Ellsworth says that in addition to obvious qualities such as professionalism, he tasked Barbe with getting the right players to perform on the record and ultimately, find the sounds he felt would best compliment his songwriting.
“David made a lot of key decisions when we were making Dusk Dreams. He picked the players and in turn helped guide them through the recording session to find the perfect sound or the best vibe. Most of all though, David allowed the songs a chance to breathe; he puts a lot of emphasis on the vibe, feel and performance of the songs and it shows in the end product.”
As he looks to the future, Ellsworth shares that he anticipates a Haunted Hearts record to be started sometime this year but with a schedule that is already booked with shows into 2013, he is simply content to sit back and enjoy the ride.
“At this very moment, I’ve found myself a beautiful view from the top of the mountain. I’m going to enjoy it for a little while.”
Article published in June 1, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript