Singer-songwriter Charles Ellsworth to play Aspen and Carbondale over Thanksgiving weekend
If You Go …
Who: Charles Ellsworth
Where: Black Nugget, Carbondale; Justice Snow’s, Aspen
When: Saturday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m. (Carbondale) and Sunday, Nov. 27. 9 p.m. (Aspen)
How much: Free
More info: charlesellsworthmusic.com
Charles Ellsworth staked out a musical claim as a bard of the West during his eight years in Utah.
The singer-songwriter also became a familiar face on the music scene in the Roaring Fork Valley and most everywhere else in the mountains, as he toured relentlessly.
He returns to both Justice Snow’s in Aspen and the Black Nugget in Carbondale for free concerts over Thanksgiving weekend.
Ellsworth’s past few concerts here have been stripped-down acoustic affairs, taking a cue from the outlaw Americana sound on his 2015 EP “Wildcat Chuck Charles” and his stark “Salt Lake City: A Love Story,” a split release with singer-songwriter Vincent Draper.
Those records and those intimate performances showcased Ellsworth as a remarkable songwriter and an observant storyteller in the western folk tradition — an heir to the likes of Townes Van Zandt — peppering his compositions with place names and the loneliness of dusty roads.
This time he’s bringing a bassist, a drummer and a more rock-heavy set.
“I’ve been working with a new band since the last time I’ve been in that area,” Ellsworth said recently from home in Brooklyn before heading west for a 10-day tour through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Utah. “So the sound has changed a little bit. It’s a little more dynamic, trying to be a little bit more melodic and full-sounding.”
He has a new record in the can, due out in late February, featuring the new band and plugged-in approach.
On “Salt Lake City: A Love Story,” Draper and Ellsworth each played four original songs and covered one apiece of each other’s. The song cycle about Utah and the west was a farewell for Ellsworth before he moved to New York City.
“I’d grown up in Arizona in a really small town in a tight-knit community and Salt Lake City was the big city for me,” Ellsworth said. “It took a couple years to come into my own. I knew at that point, when we made it, that I had plans to leave. I just felt my time had run its course there. And I wanted to document how I felt about the city at the time and pay tribute to this place that, over time, had become my home and opened its arms to me.”
Living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn has been a dramatic change for the 29-year-old.
“When I first moved here,” he recalled with a laugh, “my friends were like, ‘Why did you move to New York City? You’re pretty much a redneck. What are you doing here?’”
The move has exposed him to international musicians and the diverse styles that call New York City home, which was part of what drew him there. Steeping himself in that rich scene, he’s expanding his palette beyond the Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen and outlaw country that has so heavily influenced his work.
This early winter tour through the west is something of a test run for the new material due out in the spring. After that, Ellsworth said, he’s planning to spend much of the year as a road warrior — touring for months at a time and getting his new songs in the ears of as many listeners as he can.
“I feel like this new record is by far the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “And it’s the most work I’ve ever put into a record and I want to make sure it gets out to the right people.”
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