I was gonna write the underlying review in any event, but when I got home tonight I learned that Bryan Lee was hospitalized, apparently suffering from complications from a staph infection. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers. Folks who know him say what a wonderful person he is. I am just a fan of his strong blues singing and playing. No BS, and as I write this, hope he makes a full recovery.
Whether you call Bryan Lee The Blind Giant of the Blues or Braille Blues Daddy, it does not matter. Lee, a New Orleans institution since 1982 had a long-time residency at the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street with his Jump Street Five. This writer saw Lee there in the eighties and was impressed by his Albert King influenced style and husky straight-forward singing to get the vinyl album they had for sale. When the Old Absinthe House stopped being a bar with entertainment, he moved on to other Crescent City venues as well as toured throughout the US and Europe. Since 1991 he has recorded for the Canadian Justin Time label which previously issued 11 albums (one being a compilation) by Lee has just issued “My Lady Don’t Love My Lady,” the third Lee recording that Duke Robillard has produced and it is a typically strong recording. Robillard put together the studio band of some of his long-time associates including bassist Marty Ballou, pianist Dave Maxwell, and saxophonists Gordon Beadle and Doug James with guest appearances by Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Sheppard.
A Bryan Lee album and performance has one constant, his straight-forward blues vocals and guitars. Even when covering familiar material such as Willie Mabon’s “I Don’t Know,” he adds his own accent to the vocal and arrangement (although Dave Maxwell certainly contributes a fresh solo here and Beadle rips off a blistering tenor solo on this). There is some terrific material including a terrific Doc Pomus-Mac Rebennack composition “Imitation of Love,” that opens this disc and a lesser known Earl King blues about a cheating woman “Three Can Play This Game,” with more fine piano from Maxwell and tenor from Beadle. For some reason Junior Wells is given authorship for “Early in the Morning,” which was first recorded by the great pianist Charlie Spand in the twenties and which Junior likely picked up from John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. Lee is in fine form here as is Maxwell while Buddy Guy adds his guitar to spice this track. Kenny Wayne Sheppard helped write the shuffle “Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough,” and adds the hard rocking guitar solo pyrotechnics. Ballou’s walking bass opens the nice cover of Ray Charles’ “Heartbreaker,” with Maxwell’s piano evoking The Genius and solid solos from Beadle on tenor sax and James on baritone sax. Lee contributes three originals including “Too Many Wolves,” a slow blues with a terrific lyric about too many wolves hanging around his door with some blistering fretwork from Lee, and the title track, with a nice funk groove as Lee laments his lady makes him feel so good but does not dig his guitar. Big Bill Broonzy’s “When I’ve Been Drinking,” benefits from the late night, jazzy setting Robillard provides for Lee’s low-key vocal with Duke taking a fine solo here. It takes a brave man to cover a song connected with the late Johnny Adams, and Bryan does a more than a credible job on the country-tinged R&B gem, “Reconsider Me,” if not up to the Tan Canary's original.
Bryan Lee’s lady may not love Bryan’s other lady, but Bryan continues to deliver some of the toughest blues to be heard. This may be one of Duke Robillard’s finest efforts as a producer with the studio band being terrific. Add a blend of material with even the best-known covers injected with Lee’s personal approach and one has another terrific album of blues by Bryan Lee. This is available at cdbaby, amazon, itunes, and other vendors.