Dang! First glance at Bryan Lee on his Play One for Me CD cover, and I thought it was a shtonkered Col. Sanders playing the lead role in a demented version of The Phantom of the Opera! Scary…and hilarious, both at once. That, however, couldn't be further from the case, as Lee is a dyed in the wool soul man with a lot of the good ol' B.B. King on 'im, vocally and in that spare but lyrical guitar. Like B.B., he goes for the single notes and lead lines, no chords, thank you very much. Funny how such an uncluttered milieu can be so searing, though. He's also got a bit of Leon Russell down deep in his pipes and that never hurts neither nohow, nossir.
I was rocked back by his cover of Aaron Willis' When Love Begins, my favorite track on the disc—even above the funky cover of Evil is Going On—a song with strings and a resonant cello surrounding his deep growly singing. Blind since the age of eight, Lee has become a New Orleans institution all on his own, and Eric Clapton calls him one of the best bluesmen he's ever heard…and you know Eric: no-bullshit blues is his first love, no matter what you may hear on the radio (lay down, Sally, and then move the hell over 'cause we're serious tonight). And, damn, the more I listen to Lee's axe, the more it gets under my skin, burrowing straight toward the innards.
Half way through this album, if you ain't sneaking out the back door, heading for the juke joint, then you'd better just stay inside and wait for Sunday and the preacher man 'cause Play One is not for children, y'all. Doing a little research, I can't find where he's ever played with Duke Robillard, but those two definitely need to get together, no jive. This music is the old days, 30s to 60s, done up right. Lee's such an infamous hit at the famed Jump Street Five nightclub bar in the French Quarter that he and his band have played it five nights a week for a solid 14 years. Damn! And don't be too surprised if you drop in right alongside Kenny Wayne Shepherd; he and Lee have been tight as two peas in a pod for ages now…and, hell, I'm undecided as to whether I should tell you to grab the CD or buy a plane ticket to N'awleans. If you go for the latter, lemme know, so's I can break open my piggy bank 'n join ya.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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