Phil Lee 'Some Gotta Lose…' - Palookaville

This is the latest from the mighty king of love as Lee likes to be known and it is a winner. He recorded this album in New York with Willy Mason in the production chair. They used a select set of players to deliver a relaxed set that is at times soulful and jazzy, but soulful and jazzy in a very Phil Lee style. Lee posses an expressive and distinctive voice, that in a sea of soundalikes is something to savour.

The songs are full of his usual observations of ageing, wondering, loving and listening. They are all written by Lee, except his arrangement of the traditional Lil’ Liza Jane and Kiss of Fire, I Pray it Never Comes and What Can I Do For You?  (the latter a short unaccompanied song sung by Jan King that closes the album). There is one co-write with the late Duane Jarvis in Ain’t no Love

The band settles into a groove that sits under Lee’s lead vocals with some effective vocal choruses. Listen to Don’t Tell Me Now which has a live-in-the-studio feel as he leads them to the song’s end. Perhaps the strangest title here is If Frogs had Wings; a song that makes perfect sense in the nature of ‘if I had you I could change’, something in the nature of “if pigs could fly”. All well except for the line “they’re hanging me a dawn” which introduces an unheard backstory. Overall this is an album where Lee takes some time to look back, to revisit old haunts and homes. In doing so he felt a good deal of sadness and the realisation that what is gone is never going to return.

As with all his music there is a sense of self-deprecation. This is often expressed with humour but not without the sense of love that remains for the people and places that one has known. This is an album that deals with growing up and with acceptance. This also relates to the performances which are full of a human spirit that embraces the mistakes as a part of the whole. The music is warm and affirming and full of little touches in the playing that capture the moment and the sense of players who are skilled and all in tune with achieving an overall vibe that is effusive.

Phil Lee is a troubadour who has weathered his woes and loves and woven them into songs and performances that are best summed up as mighty songs of love and loss. Lee will always fly below the radar and that is something he is well used to. But he can console himself with the fact that his music is as vital to those who appreciate it as it was on first encounter. This could be the best one yet and again is another contender for album of the year. Some gotta lose, but this is a knockout.

Phil Lee 'The Fall and Further Decline of The Mighty King of Love' - Palookaville

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 for more.