Review – Ellis Bullard’s “Piss-Hot Freightlining Country Music”
I’ll tell you this: You show up with your chest puffed out, wearing funnyglasses with bunch of feathers shoved into the front of your Stetson, and telling everyone you’re slinging “Piss-hot freightlining country music,” then you better deliver, son. Otherwise some redneck blasted on Bushmills might be waiting outside by the dumpster after your set, ready to stomp your face in.
But Ellis Bullard has nothing to worry about. This is no hipster that just blew in from east Nashville or Echo Park, CA. This is the latest honky-tonker to emerge out of Austin’s bar scene ready to bring shit kicking country music back to the forefront. Field tested on A-Town stages such as The White Horse and Sam’s Town Point, Ellis Bullard and his band of seasoned Austin A-listers make a strong case for national attention with this debut record.
Already raising blips on some people’s radar when Joe Rogan shouted Bullard out after seeing him slaying with his band at the White Horse right about the time Ellis released his blazing debut single “Roller Coaster,” Piss-Hot Freightlining Country Music is more where that came from, not trying to reinvent the wheel, just making country music that actually sounds country, while also making it cool. And if you want to make it on the Austin honky-tonk circuit, you have to play songs folks can two-step to, so everything is set in that ideal tempo to keep feet shuffling and limbs twitching.
Ellis Bullard comes from a long background of pickers and performers. His mom was a performer working down Muscle Shoals studios back in the 60s and 70s, and his great grandfather was a guitar player hanging around the Chet Atkins orbit. Bullard has been in a number of other bands, playing music on the road for going on a decade, but when he started his own with a bunch of players from other Austin projects, everything started to click and the crowds dug it.
Soon it was a going concern on a nightly basis, folks were packing out the clubs whenever they played, and they were heading into the studio. This thing has only been around for about a year or so, and it’s one of the hottest bands in town. It’s also important to emphasize that even though it’s Ellis Bullard’s name on the cover, he considers this a band, with guitarist Adam Duran, bassist Dillon Sampson, steel guitarists Sam Norris (touring) and Burton Lee, drummer Wyatt Lankford, and guitarist/background vocalist Kevin Foster all appearing on the record. Cole Beddingfield is the touring bassist for the band.
Though Ellis Bullard predictably rattles off guys like Merle Haggard and Jerry Reed as influences with the strong 70s vibe to the music and the affinity for semi-trucks, he also says Mo Bandy and his frequent collaborations with Joe Stampley also influence his sound, and that’s what you hear on this record. It doesn’t just pick up on the obvious notions of Outlaw era country, but the subtle ones too.
The songwriting is fine for now—passable but nothing exceptional, and the music can be a little bit “one note,” so to speak. But really, you seek out Ellis Bullard for the throwback style and the party that ensues around it. Perhaps the best thing about Ellis Bullard and this new record is you really feel like it’s just the beginning or a foundation of something that will be hitting its stride a few years from now, and you’ll still be enjoying in a decade or two. At only seven songs, consider Piss-Hot Freightlining Country Music a short album or a long EP, which is the perfect starting point to sprout your roots from, and make some noise outside of Texas.
But for now, Ellis Bullard is also just fine being an Austin honky tonker taking weekend gigs out of state if he can. As he expresses in the song “Chasing Numbers,” he’s not especially interested in getting rich, making a big splash on social media, or finding a stadium to play for validation. He putting the priorities of life and music first, keeping it all humble and honest, no matter how cocksure Bullard and the boys might be when they’re blazing on stage.
But hopefully Ellis Bullard also doesn’t get too comfortable on the local Austin circuit, which some refer to as the “velvet handcuffs” since you can play a show for an appreciative audience most every night of the week and never leave the city limits, and never really get anywhere. Because hungry country music fans beyond Austin sure do deserve to be exposed to what Ellis Bullard and the boys are throwing down.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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May 2, 2022 @ 8:46 am
I love this site, it helped me to know more about country music. I would like to recommend for anyone who loves country music like me to listen to William Beckmann, he is a country singer from Del Rio,Texas, he released his second EP a few days ago titled “Faded Memories”. I don’t speak English as a native language, so please excuse any language errors.
May 2, 2022 @ 9:32 am
Ellis Bullard has been on my radar ever since Roller Coaster’s release. He’s got a unique sound and I’m excited to listen to this project.
May 2, 2022 @ 9:36 am
May 2, 2022 @ 11:39 am
Been checking him out on YouTube since your heads up on a SCM Playlist this year. He and his band are the honky tonk real deal for sure. Hear a lot of similarities to “High Top Mountain” and “Metamodern” era Sturgill Simpson, especially vocally, on this release (and some Dale Watson “Trucking’ Sessions” vibes came to mind too). Love it!
May 2, 2022 @ 1:57 pm
The songs above remind me a lot of Whitey Morgan and the 78s. Pretty cool stuff.
Mark J. Byerley
May 2, 2022 @ 2:06 pm
We met the man in 2019 at a St. Patty’s Day gig. We recognized him for his unique sound as he play outside in the hot Texas sun. As he and the band have grown, so has the fan base. We are proud fans and friends!
May 2, 2022 @ 7:00 pm
This is some good shit right here. Thanks for the review.
May 3, 2022 @ 3:09 am
Thanks for once again bringing an artist unknown to me to my attention. Good stuff.
May 3, 2022 @ 6:10 am
Trig, Please review William Beckmann’s faded memories
May 3, 2022 @ 7:49 am
I will likely be reviewing the William Beckmann album. Folks need to understand a couple of things.
1. Last Friday was a very busy release day. I’ve already reviewed three records from that day, and likely would have reviewed more by this point if it wasn’t for Naomi Judd’s death.
2. I’m very purposeful in how and when I review records, and in what order.
May 3, 2022 @ 6:48 am
How have I not heard of this dude? This is my kinda country. Thanks
May 3, 2022 @ 12:35 pm
This is damn good. Thanks for bringing attention to these guys, Trig.
May 3, 2022 @ 2:37 pm
May 3, 2022 @ 2:43 pm
Trig you oughta check out the new Joe’s Truck Stop record, it’s something else. There’s something in the water in that Ohio River
May 3, 2022 @ 3:12 pm
Yes got that one on the radar as well.
May 3, 2022 @ 2:50 pm
Such a welcome change from the “latte hot, Prius Driving, Tecova Wearing Boyfriend Country Music” we’ve been stuck with….
May 3, 2022 @ 8:56 pm
Digging this. Thanks for the review Trig.
May 4, 2022 @ 5:45 pm
May 5, 2022 @ 1:47 pm
Liking it, got a bit of an early Sturgill sound to it
May 5, 2022 @ 9:58 pm
I need to get this
May 24, 2022 @ 8:40 am
I dig it. Wish it was longer than 23 minutes. Heavy 70’s vibes. Most recently reminds me of early Sturgill Simpson and Whitey Morgan. Even the album cover is almost identical to Morgan’s album Honkey Tonks & Cheap Motels. Is that a reference to some older album I can’t think of?
July 17, 2022 @ 10:59 pm
Caught Ellis & Co’s twos nights up in Wisconsin and it was incredible. Admitedly wasn’t my usual genre but the way Ellis uses his voice as an instrument is nothing short of amazing and next thing I know, I was blasting the record while I’m on the treadmill. Have a new favorite.