PEI's Ellsworth is in fine form these days as a songwriter, following up his 2012 Dusk Dreams album with another full release already. It's his fifth solo disc, along with his work with Haunted Hearts, and he's reaching new levels each time. This time out, he's produced by Skydigger Josh Finlayson, someone who knows what good songwriting is all about, and how to turn that into a tight, well-presented package. For the this album, the pair concentrate on the core of each number, the fine vocal delivery by Ellsworth, the impact of the words, and the soft, sweet melodies.
Instead of turning up, there are plenty of calm, soothing songs on Hazy Sunshine. Ellsworth's almost crooning to us, a more subtle Burton Cummings tone to his voice, and I mean that with great respect, as there's lots of emotion and strength. Behind him, the band is solid but never loud, even the guitar leads and drums kept lower than Ellsworth's voice. A major instrument throughout is the violin played by fellow Islander Kinley Dowling (Hey Rosetta!), who also provides harmonies, and that's her father Alan on drums. Tom Bovaconti from Ron Sexsmith's band handled much of the electric guitar, and Finlayson and Maize add Skydigger harmonies to the grand tune Harry Nilsson's Heart. Another standout is Coke Machine Glow, a Gord Downie lyric-poem for which Ellsworth composed a new melody. But Ellsworth's words more than stand up to those standards, and nature, from sunshine to cliff edges, shows up in most every song, a search for earthly paradise.
by Bob Mersereau
Exclaim Magazine Review
This follow-up to Ellsworth's 2012 David Barbe-produced effort, Dusk Dreams, finds the PEI-born singer-songwriter venturing into more clearly defined folk-pop territory, with irresistible results.
Utilizing a completely Canadian team this time out — including keyboardist Chris Brown, guitarist Tim Bovaconti and Skydiggers' Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson (who also produces) — Ellsworth sounds entirely comfortable in this bright, briskly paced new environment.
While Ellsworth isn't in quite the same songwriting league as Ron Sexsmith, he comes at the material on Hazy Sunshine in a similar melodic and emotional way. Songs rarely overstay their welcome, and Ellsworth's often-hushed delivery establishes a surprising level of intimacy.
Like the subject of one of the album's standout tracks, "Harry Nilsson's Heart," Ellsworth comes off as the underdog you just can't help but root for. Gord Downie fans will also want to hear what Ellsworth's done with his poem "Coke Machine Glow," but for the merely curious, Hazy Sunshine is an album that's almost too charming for its own good.
by Jason Schneider