[New West]

He may be only 22, but Houston native Robert Ellis displays an impressive ability to channel influential elders while nimbly shifting his own style. The first five songs on his debut find him in singer-songwriter mode a la the early ’70s, with Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Paul Simon and the Laurel Canyon crowd serving as obvious reference points. Mellow acoustic ballads with occasional strings offer the impression he’s one of those wistful retiring types, prone to songs about idyllic settings and forgotten friends. But “Comin’ Home” signals an obvious transition, its restless energy building toward a rousing conclusion. From that point on, Hank Williams and George Jones take over the template, as Ellis utilizes steel guitar, fiddles and a spirited sound to assert his down-home demeanor. Photographs captures some sweet sentiments and evokes a welcome flood of musical memories. —Lee Zimmerman

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