They call her NOLA. The acronym for New Orleans, Louisiana has come to stand for many things over the years. It is a town full of mysteries so deep that even the most devastating of floods cannot wash them away. Birthplace of the blues, jazz, and riverboat dreams, New Orleans has always been the home of dangerously attractive legends.
The current blues legend in NOLA is Bryan Lee, who has been a local fixture for nearly 30 years. I really thought that his excellent 2007 album, Katrina Was Her Name, would have broken him big nationally. But maybe, with a little luck, the rest of the world will hear his new one, My Lady Don’t Love My Lady.
My Lady is old-school, roadhouse blues, the type you just do not come across much of anymore. Once in a while, guys like Stevie Ray Vaughan or Robert Cray will come along and light up the charts, but they are rare. Bryan Lee’s talent is right up there with both.
My Lady Don’t Love My Lady features a couple of pretty heavy hitters in the blues field paying tribute to Mr. Lee. Both Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd make brilliant appearances on the record, but neither detract from the overall power of the main man.
The album opens up with a nice turn on an old Dr. John tune, “Imitation Of Love,” and right from the start you know you are in for a good time. While Bryan Lee’s guitar is unquestionably the prime attraction, the first thing I noticed is just how good his band is. The horns are as tight as they get, and pianist David Maxwell is amazing.
This is shown over and over again throughout the album. The title cut is a nice example of this. Like B.B. King’s beloved Lucille, Bryan’s guitar is his “other” lady, to which the song pays tribute. When he lets fly with a solo straight out of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” you know he ain’t lyin’.
Young guitar-slinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd is a NOLA native, and was mentored by Bryan Lee. He has always acknowledged the master, and even had Lee appear with him on The Tonight Show in 2007. His solo on “Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough” is luminous.
Anyone who saw Buddy Guy in The Rolling Stones’ Shine A Light knows that he was the highlight of the concert. Watching him and Keith play off of each other was fantastic. Listening to him here on “Early In The Morning” evokes a similar impression. Although no verification is needed, the appearance of Buddy Guy on this record certainly confirms the respect Bryan Lee is afforded.
There is a fact about Bryan Lee I did not really want to mention in a review of such a great record. But based on the fact that he goes by the nickname Braille Blues Daddy, I guess I have to. The man has been blind since the age of eight. What that has to do with the commanding music of My Lady Don’t Love My Lady is left up to you.
All I can say is that this album is as powerful a blues record as you are likely to hear in this or any other year.