JR Ella was born in Cameroon (Africa), lived in France, and eventually moved to the US. He currently lives in Sacramento, CA. He mentions “music has always been a part of my life; I grew up with parents who sang and played in our local church, so my upbringing was filled with African rhythms and traditional gospel music, and interestingly enough, my mother also had me classically-trained on the flute and the piano, something that helped me greatly in my understanding of the fundamentals of music.
A Time to Be Blue is his recent release and is a relatively sparse album that focuses on classical guitar and vocals. I thought the guitar playing was dynamic and diverse. There is a lot to appreciate about his technique but there is also an undeniable emotion to this playing style.
“She’s Gone” is the first and one of the melancholier songs. The vocals sound deep and reverent. I loved his voice which felt natural but perhaps more important I felt different shades of emotion from sadness to gratitude. The song unfolds into a catchy chorus and I was excited to hear what else would be on the album.
“Do You Recall” has a light and lovely feeling. It is calming and recalls an artist like Jack Johnson. There are also well-written lyrics. Some of the lines that stuck out to me were “The lights fade in my rearview mirror / Like a world that is dying away / My thoughts do not get any clearer / And the answers feel so far away.”
“Le Bûcheron (So Long, Manu)” is a gorgeous instrumental track. The guitar work is top notch where Ella displays his ability. It is such a warm song and there are two guitars which complement each other very well. This song should put you in a good mood.
“You Left Me Blue” is a bluesy song with slide guitar. It’s very sparse but the sadness is real. He sounds fantastic on the guitar and this might be my favorite vocal performance. “Old Man Blues” features more blues but a different branch. The song hits you in your soul.
“Heaven” features more slide guitar and his vocal approach is a little different here while “Out of the Blue” has more exceptional picking skills on the guitar. The heart of blues comes out again on “Sweet Angel.” “Naima’s Evening Song” sounds like the title and you can practically see the fireflies.
The last song has a different rhythm and vocal stye and seemed to be an homage to his roots. It was an interesting turn this late in the album but I enjoyed it. The recording of these songs was professional and captured the warmth of the instrumentation. It added to the already impressive performances.
This is a fantastic album from beginning to end. There is a lot to appreciate. Highly recommended.
Review by Matt Jensen of Pitch Perfect
Link to original article: https://www.pitchperfectsite.com/indie-music-album-reviews/jr-ella-a-time-to-be-blue
Album title: A Time to Be Blue (Album)
Artist: J.R. Ella
Label: J.R. Ella
Copyright: ©+℗ J.R. Ella
Genre: Blues | Alternative Folk
Number of Tracks: 10
Album Length: 00:35:17
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About the Artist
Jean-Rene “JR” Ella is a guitarist/singer-songwriter who grew up in Cameroon and lives in Sacramento, California. His music distills a delightful blueness, in a melodic trip that takes you from the shores of Cameroon to the Mississippi Delta.
You can contact the artist here: contact page.