Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bryan Lee - Katrina Was Her Name (Justin Time, 2007)

Blind from the age of eight, Bryan Lee compensated by listening hard to blues radio dialed in from the deep south, being deeply influenced by Freddie King amongst many others. Now in his early 60's Lee plays a stinging guitar himself and sings soulfully in the tradition of his adopted hometown on New Orleans. His regular touring band is joined by Bruce Katz on keyboards and Gordon Beadle on saxophone. The band hits hardest with their uptempo blues boogies like Bobby Parker's joyfully infectious "Barefootin'" and a blasting version of Chick Willis' "Take it Like a Man." The other highlight of the album is the stark acoustic title track, "Katrina Was Her Name" which tells the story of the destruction of New Orleans when the levees broke over a mournful backdrop. Another slow blues, although much less morbid, is a fine soulful version of Jimmy Witherspoon's "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" where Lee sings very well over a tight and thoughtful arrangement of the standard. There are a couple of minor mis -steps, the generic "Blues Singer" is basically a shout-out to Lee's favorite musicians, and the ending "Don't Joke With The Stroke" is an overlong ode to funk. But these are minor quibbles on a disc that is overall quite successful. Lee and the band avoid self indulgence for the most part and produced a solid album of focused, funky blues.

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