Robert Ellis new west chemical plant

Robert Ellis follows ‘Photographs’ with ‘Lights from the Chemical Plant’

To call the music of Robert Ellis ‘country’ isn’t wrong, but it does miss the complexity of sounds and styles he regularly brings to his music.

The title track of his previous album Photographs stood out for its weepy melody and Ellis’s aching voice.

This year, though, Ellis has emerged with a new album — The Lights from the Chemical Plant — that’s every bit as strong, but shifts focus away from anything overtly honky tonk.

The key word here is ‘overt,’ because elements of country music are still infused within the songs on Refinery Town. Many of the songs still ache and feel like something perfect for jukebox play on lonely barroom afternoons.

Overall, though, the album has more of a pop sheen. Which is deliberate: Ellis has said in recent interviews he was aiming more for Paul Simon on this album than anything to do with Haggard or Jones.

“Paul Simon is a huge inspiration for this record in particular,” Ellis told For one thing, he noted, every Simon album “is completely different than the one before it.” Which is why, he continued,  he represents “what I hope to achieve with my career. Not be pinned down by any one thing, but still being massively successful.”

To find Ellis covering a Simon song on the album, then, isn’t too surprising: