Despite a string of generally sturdy recordings. Bryan Lee, a fixture in New Orleans, has never quite established a strong national profile. Perhaps it’ll be ‘third time lucky,’ as Lee, working once again with producer extraordinaire Duke Robillard, has crafted his strongest and most consistent set yet with My Lady Don’t Love My Lady.
Lee certainly seems to be reaching for the brass ring this time out, with guest turns by Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd featured prominently. He’s also aided and abetted by several of Robillard’s usual crew (upright bassist Marty Ballou and the stellar horn section of Gordon Beadle and Doug James , along with old friend Dave Maxwell on piano) in addition to his own band. Robillard also contributes his own inimitable guitar work to the project.
As befits a long-time resident of New Orleans, material on Lee’s latest is laced with swampy funk. From slinky opener “Imitation Of Love” (penned by Doc Pomus and Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John) through the jagged jungle beat of “Just Top Prove My Love To You” that closes the disc, Lee and company strut through a generous program that combines crunching grooves with infectious swing.
Guy is an effective foil on “Three O’Clock In The Morning,” with jagged fills and a stinging solo that’s downright nasty, while Shepherd’s typically snarling, ferocious solo is an all-too-brief highlight of his own “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough).” “Heartbreaker” is a rarity, a tune penned by none other than Ahmet Ertugan (co-founder of A&M Records).
Lee holds his compositions back ‘til the disc’s second half. There’s “Too Many Wolves,” a slow grinder, and the charging shuffle of “Me And My Music,” not quite as clichéd as the title suggests. The title track may well be the disc’s weakest, albeit most personal – dealing with the conflict between Lee’s woman and his other ‘lady,’ the guitar, it’s a little too self-referential and indulgent, though the wah-wah-heavy arrangement simply oozes slinky funk.
And that’s quibbling, really, because the rest of the disc is stellar, with Lee’s vocals showing greater maturity than ever. On earlier outings he occasionally sounded too boyish to be as dangerous as some of his material requires, but here he has that edge, that sense of suppressed menace essential to truly convincing blues.
With lots of variety, superb performances from a band that seemingly can’t help but swing, spirited delivery and fiery fretwork from Lee, this one’s a winner on every front!