Tim Lee, a native of Southwestern Ontario, has an extensive background in everything from rockabilly and swing to a brief stint in a Greek dance band. But he keeps returning to the blues, the music he discovered when he used to go see transplanted Mississippian Mel Brown (who's worked with everybody from Sonny Boy Williamson to Bobby 'Blue' Bland to his current bandmate, Snooky Pryor). Mel continues to be an inspiration, guesting here on piano and organ.
The opener, "Cleo's Mood" (one of only two covers here), makes it quite apparent what a huge presence Mel's is; it's his burbling organ that drives the tune. Next is "Bad Boy Baby,' a slow-burner with Tim's fretwork again augmented by Mel (this time on piano) and nicely understated harp by Chris "Junior" Mallick. A walking-bass intro quickly turns into an energetic, reverse-shuffle on "Good Fine Lovin,'" before Tim takes a highly personal crack at "So Many Roads." This one suffers from a lack of darkness and despair, and won't make anyone forget Otis Rush's chilling and definitive version.
"(Is That Train) Heading West," with a strong vocal and squalling harp, has the chugging rhythmic drive one expects of a 'train' song; it may well be the disc's high point. "The Mess You Made" rides a grinding, stop time groove, but again, despite singing through a harp mic, Tim's vocals just don't seem menacing enough to render the tune a success. Better is "Free Rollin' Man," which gives Time a chance to exercise his rockabilly roots; again Mr. Mallick's harp is put to good rhythmic effect, but the band seems a little taxed trying to maintain the song's furious pace.
"Walkin' With Mr. Lee," another instrumental, is fine but doesn't really seem to go anywhere; ditto "Hard Road," with an arrangement sparse enough to provide ample room for Tim's soloing; he just doesn't seem to know how to make the most of the opportunity. Restraint is an admirable trait, but like moderation it's best in moderation; one has to cut loose sometimes!
"Ain't Stoppin' Now" is more of the same; a "Hoochie Coochie" stop time riff that barely seems to get started. The closer, "Deep Blue Sea," employs the by-now conceit of being filtered such through the background static of a pre-war 78. Not a bad song, and the performance is fine; too bad Tim buries it under layers of 'artificial' noise.
All in all this one would serve as a fine demo, but it lacks the energy and innovation that would make it an essential purchase for others. The band for the most part is workmanlike, but Tim appears to have talent to spare; here's hoping he'll find a bit more passion for his next outing.
Web : www.timlee.ca
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