Bryan Lee's New CD
A bona fide New Orleans blues guitar hero and longtime staple on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, Bryan Lee is a natural born houserocker with a whole lot of soul that he brings to the bandstand night after night. Coming off a highly successful whirlwind tour with Kenny Wayne Shepherd's blues revue, Lee is primed and ready to unleash his own intensely passionate brand of blues power on tour this summer in the wake of his recent Justin Time release, Katrina Was Her Name (Release Date: June 26).
A follow-up to 2005's Live & Dangerous, Lee's latest was produced by guitar great Duke Robillard and features the return of such key session players as honking tenor man Sax Gordon Beadle, baritone saxophonist Doug James and versatile keyboardist Bruce Katz (all of whom appeared on 2002's acclaimed Six String Therapy), along with Lee's current working band of guitarist Brent Johnson, bassist Jim Mitchell and drummer John Perkins. Together they lay down some infectious grooves and raucous jams on faithful covers of blues and R&B classics by Willie Dixon, Kim Wilson, Doc Pomus, Luther Allison, Jimmy Witherspoon, Bobby Parker and Chuck Willis with the 64-year-old bluesman's real deal vocals and stinging Freddie King-inspired guitar licks wailing over the top. The chilling title track is Lee's mournful tale about the day the levy broke down in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. With sparse, dramatic accompaniment on acoustic guitar and dobro, Lee testifies: "It came in from the Gulf, it took my people down/8-29-2005, it destroyed New Orleans town."
Elsewhere on Katrina Was Her Name, Lee and company lay down a N'awlins flavored second line groove on Willie Dixon's "29 Ways", sparked by a honking tenor solo from Beadle and some slick Pinetop Perkins-inspired piano work from Katz. Lee displays some soul-stirring vocals and intensely stinging guitar licks on Kim Wilson's shuffle blues "Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You" and they rock out on an authentic rendition of Bobby Parker's classic '60s dance number, "Barefootin'." Lee unearths the obscure Doc Pomus gem "My Baby Done Quit Me", a lazy, N'awlins flavored R&B stroll that features some dynamic horn playing from Beadle (who blows in the gutsy style of pioneering '60s soul saxophonist Gene "Daddy G" Barge) and bari ace James, and he turns in a toe-curling, emotionally-charged reading of Jimmy Witherspoon's slow blues classic, "Ain't Nobody's Business." He also resurrects the effervescent "Take It Like A Man" by the turban-wearing '50s R&B crooner Chuck Willis and the raucous slide guitar showcase "Lowdown and Dirty" by Luther Allison. Lee's originals on this stellar blues/R&B outing include the stark Delta blues styled number "Bethany Jane" (for his fiancée Bethany Jane Metz), the funky James Brown meets P-Funk throwdown "Don't Joke With The Stroke" and the minor key "Blues Singer", an autobiographical number in which Bryan gives props to his boyhood blues heroes, including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, Freddie, Albert and B.B. King and Gatemouth Brown.
Born in 1945 on March 16, Two Rivers, Wisconsin, Lee lost his eyesight at the age of eight. His avid interest in early rock and blues was fostered through the 1950s with late night listening sessions via the Nashville-based radio station WLAC-AM, where he first encountered the sounds of the three Kings, Elmore James, T-Bone Walker and other influential bluesmen. By his late teens, he was playing rhythm guitar in a regional band called The Glaciers that covered Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry material. Through the '60s, Lee's interest turned to Chicago blues and he soon found himself gigging in blues clubs throughout Milwaukee and the Windy City. In January of 1982, Lee relocated to New Orleans and for the next 14 years held down a steady gig playing five nights a week at the Old Absinthe House in the heart of the French Quarter. He subsequently went to the Tropical Isle and remains one of the most crowd-pleasing acts on Bourbon Street to this day. Lee debuted on Justin Time in 1991 with The Blues Is and has since released a string of powerful outings on the label, including 1993's Memphis Bound, 1995's Braille Blues Daddy, 1997's Live at the Old Absinthe House Bar and 2000's Crawfish Lady. His dynamic Blues Power Band was captured in concert at The Spectrum in Montreal on the recent Justin Time DVD, Live & Dangerous.
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