The latest album from the mighty Mr. Lee is a cracker. It is once again produced by his friend, ace guitarist Richard Bennett - a man whose name is not on album credits as much as it should be these days. Phil Lee is a character and his songs also have a quality that makes them special. The songs have his usual mix of humour and pathos and are decidedly rootsy with strong flavours of soul, blues, folk and rock abounding.
I Hated to See You Go, a co-write with Barry Goldberg, has a Stax vibe running through it. Songs dealing with death are not easy to write sympathetically and with empathy without sounding false or morbid, but Cold Ground, Lee's song about a departed loved one is realistic, accepting the inevitable, but does so with understanding. All You Need is a powerful ensemble reading of a song co-written with the late Duane Jarvis, a much missed friend and guitarist. The essence of the lyric is "your faith in love has turned to dust, you simply need someone you can trust"- wise words. Every Time is a train blues that features Lee's distinctive voice and his harmonica over a rhythm that powers the song without overpowering the song, something is often done in music these days. The band here, including Richard Bennett, is top notch and features Dave Roe, Ken Coomer, George Bradfute, Gunderman and Lee’s friend and sometime touring companion Tom Mason along with some fulsome backing vocals from the Taryn Engle Singers.
There is much here to recommend this as a complete package, from the cover onwards. It is the best album that the much underrated Lee has recorded to date, one of those albums where all the parts fit together seamlessly and it is done with humour, real soul and humanity. This is real people making real music for all the right reasons and each of the 12 tracks are worthy of repeat plays. The final bonus track is a live recording of Lee's interchange with an audience. Though it's not always clear what's being said, it illustrates the fun element of a Phil Lee show. All Lee's albums are good but this one tops the lot. Check out philleeone.com for more.