Bryan Lee, Play One for Me (Severn)

Bryan Lee, Play One for Me, album cover

Former Bourbon Street blues journeyman Bryan Lee delivers a very well-thought-out, and very un-Bourbon Street-like CD—i.e. no standards, rather plenty of originals and a sprinkling of mostly informed R&B covers. Granted, there are some straight blues numbers here, but Lee has, in most cases, pleasingly expanded the parameters. A good example is the inspiration for the CD’s title—”Aretha (Sing One For Me)”—a George Jackson obscurity from the early ’70s, where Lee doesn’t stray far from the original Memphis arrangement or the pleading delivery of the original. Another is “When Love Begins (Friendship Ends),” another R&B obscurity (borrowed from Little Sonny) that tellingly chronicles the perils sometimes involved in the pursuit of love and so-called happiness. On the blusier side, the original “Poison” (with Kim Wilson in tow on harp) has a vintage/road house sounding edge that’s most appealing as does the cover of Freddy King’s “It’s Too Bad (Things Are So Tough With Me).” Interestingly King’s brother, Benny Turner, played in Lee’s Bourbon Street band for several years. Another track with a definite blues edge is “You Was My Baby (But You Ain’t My Baby No More)” where Lee lays down the law to his used-to-be old lady. Of the originals, the best might be “Let Me Love You Tonight” which has the Tyrone Davis/Latimore/Syl Johnson groove you used to hear late at night on Southern R&B stations in the early ’70s. Lee’s guitar is prominent throughout, but he doesn’t overplay his hand here. The last (and least) of the songs on the CD is the closer “Sixty-Eight Years Young,” which Lee should have left on the shelf. That aside, this is a very enjoyable CD.