Robert Ellis: “Drivin'” (Live)

Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUTX

The road is presented as a particularly American escape, but on Robert Ellis’ “Drivin’,” it’s an endless, yellow-lined prison cell. He’s listless in the wake of a break-up, wandering grocery store aisles and empty fairgrounds. That blankness gives Ellis and his band a big canvas to work with, but they color all around the edges. This is country music that tips its hat back to western swing’s obsession with jazz. The song might drive on that classic, ceaseless shuffle, but pedal-steel and guitar melodies weave all over the road. Every once in awhile, Ellis squints at the horizon with sudden clarity: “I ain’t going nowhere / I’m just drivin’.”

Listen to “Drivin'” below, recorded live at the Four Seasons during SXSW. The studio version appears on Robert Ellis, out June 3 on New West. Catch Ellis live at 3TEN on June 3 and June 4.

–Art Levy

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