P.O. Box 6605
Evanston, IL 60204
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Framing an eclectic mingling of songs with his resonant, adaptive and charming voice, Rick Lee pinballs among a mix of subject matter in his latest release. Veering from levity to somberness, spiritual to earthy, he also offers a couple of instrumentals, and even a tune in the styling of Nat King Cole.
Complementing his vocals with pleasing banjo, guitar, keyboards and mandolin instrumentation, Lee appears a musical raconteur, able to authentically present diverse musical material in various entertaining styles.
His banjo-driven version of Chuck Brodsky's "The Come Heres and the Been Heres" is packed with a greater sense of gravitas than Brodsky's, due to both Lee's banjo play and his more worldly-sounding vocals. He comes off as someone who has been around for awhile, and probably falls into the 'been heres' group--although the lyrics place the song's protagonist in a mostly neutral observational position.
Best known from William Pint's and Felicia Dale's version, "The Ballad of Harbo and Samuelsen" is an inspiring tribute to a couple of brave Scandinavians who rowed across the Atlantic from New York City to Le Havre, France, in 1896. Lee, on keyboards and backed by Andy May on guitar, does a compelling presentation of this true story.
"Lunatic Asylum," with banjo again in force, is a mournful spiritual depicting the tragic fate of the mentally ill in the early 1900s. Clutching at the belief in a better life without the infamous 'jackets' after passing on, the patient's vision of an afterlife is the only solace available to get him through the day. Quite endearing due to its authenticity, are Lee's simpleton-like voice and the use of perchance naive phrases such as "I'll be over double trouble" and "I'm bound for the happy land of Canaan."
The colorful and uplifting "Rainbow's End" is a delightful detailing of the wondrous gifts shared through the links of love. "Don't Say Goodnight" is Lee, along with Dave Howard on guitar and Bill Walach on mandolin as the Rick Lee Trio, in a Nat King Cole-like romantic musical style.
Backing himself on piano, Lee's "The Ballad of the Tinker's Daughter" is a seven-minute short story bridging marriage, birth, anger, ignorance, rejection, murder, grief and suicide. This cut, despite its melancholy material, is an absolute delight due to the synthesis of the lyrics, music and vocals.
"These October Days," written by John Lincoln Wright, is an image-laden composition bursting with feelings of joy experienced throughout the seasons of life. In this cut, these feelings described coalesce in fall as these exquisite remaining October moments are savored before fading into winter's arrival.
This is the type of release that sneaks up on the listener. Although none of the material will leave your mouth agape in wonder, the appreciation of it still grows with each playing. There is no defining style in which to pigeonhole Lee's music, so just enjoy the different roads he takes you down.
Lee, on vocals, 5-string banjo and keyboards, is backed by Andy May on guitar, mandolin and backing vocals; Dave Howard on guitar; Bill Walach on mandolin; Jim Heffernan on dobro and pedal steel guitars; and Heidi Basgall on backing vocals.
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