In 2017 Dennis Ellsworth needed to make a new album. And it was an emergency. So, who better to call for assistance than Joel Plaskett, leader of The Emergency, to participate. The result is Ellsworth’s fifth solo LP, Things Change, a convergence of his irresistible power pop songwriting chops with Plaskett and co.’s trademark vintage guitar-driven sound.
In the past, Prince Edward Island native Ellsworth has never hesitated to seek out the right people for specific projects. It’s led him to build an impressive body of work in conjunction with producer David Barbe (Drive-By Truckers, Sugar), along with CanRock heroes such as Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers, Gord Downie), Hugh Christopher Brown, and Tim Bovaconti (Ron Sexsmith). However, teaming up with Plaskett at Joel’s New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia became a totally immersive experience for Ellsworth that opened up many new creative possibilities.
Joel Plaskett assumed production duties for the new album and enlisted his longtime drummer from the Emergency, Dave Marsh, and Charles Austin of east coast rock legends Superfriendz to participate. Ellsworth came more prepared than he ever had before, having spent a considerable amount of time crafting home demos, which he says allowed him to conceive an overall framework for the album rather than viewing it as 12 individual songs. It also gave Plaskett plenty of opportunities to offer his ideas and build on the hooks Ellsworth had already devised.
After two decades of making music in various incarnations, Ellsworth chalks up what he’s accomplished on Things Change in large part to simply being older and wiser. “For years I wrote dark, smooth, romantic alt-country-ish type songs,” he says. “I don’t know how I ever got there but I stuck with it for a while. I love those records, but I knew it was time I switched things up just to keep myself interested.”
Now he says, “I feel like I’ve entered into this new land of possibility and I’m gonna ride that wave for a bit. I also think my songwriting is getting stronger with every album. I feel like I’ve found a way to get a message across with the perfect balance. It’s still poetic but does a much better job of drawing a listener in with clear messages and some great combinations of words.”
Catch Dennis playing on PEI May 3 at Trailside Café in Mount Stewart at 8 pm and May 18 with Kinley Dowling at Harmony House, Hunter River at 8 pm.