You’ve probably never heard of him, but
- He helped orchestrate the reunion of the Everly Brothers and played in their band for almost 20 years.
- He played lead guitar on Roseanne Cash’s platinum album, Seven Year Ache.
- He played lead guitar in Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band for years.
- He backed John Prine on The Missing Years.
- He backed Eric Clapton on Just One Night, Another Ticket and Money and Cigarettes.
- He was a part of Joe Cocker’s band for several years.
- He’s performed on albums by Ricky Skaggs, Bo Diddley, Nicolette Larson, Dolly Parton, Herbie Mann, Jackson Browne and Dave Edmunds and dozens of others.
- His discography reads like a who’s who of pop, country, rock and jazz.
Eric Clapton called him “the greatest guitarist in the world.”1
Emmylou Harris said of him, he’s “a brilliant guitar player. His sound is unmistakable—often emulated, never equaled. When Saint Peter asks me to chronicle my time down here on earth, I’ll be able to say (with pride if that’s allowed) that for a while I played rhythm guitar in a band with Albert Lee.”
WC got to see Albert Lee live last week. The concert exceeded WC’s expectations. In terms of sheer musicality, in terms of pure musicianship, it’s the best concert WC has seen in a long, long time.2 It isn’t just the spectacular talent; Albert Lee is still having fun, still loving every minute, in a career that has extended from 1959 to the present.
Lee gave us blue, jazz, pop, ballads and thundering rock and roll. His performance of a couple of Everly Brothers tunes made you think Phil and Don were still performing. He showed some serious flash at the keyboards on a couple of tunes, too.
In the encore, Lee gave a touching tribute to Glen Campbell, playing Campbell’s last recorded song, Julian Raymond’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” Eerily prescient, as Campbell is dying of Alzheimer’s Disease, Lee showed us – if there was any doubt – he can deliver a moving ballad as well.
But the tunes where Lee clearly had the most fun were the old rockabilly songs. On a Jerry Lee Lewis cover, on his own “Country Boy,” and on one of the encore songs, Johnny Burnett’s “Tear It Up,” Lee pretty much set his Telecaster on fire, improvising with spectacular runs, fingerpicking and rhythm changes. WC has been privileged to see a lot of terrific guitarists live: E.C., Mark Knopfler, Leo Kottke, Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel. All of them were terrific, but WC is here to tell you that the master of the Telecaster, Albert Lee, on July 29, 2016, topped them all. Here’s a sample:
And, in person, he is the same, self-effacing guy he was on stage, signing albums, chatting with fans and posting for photos. Like this one.
WC wants to thank Andy Byron (seen in the background over Lee’s shoulder), the musician and promoter, for brining Albert Lee to Boise. And WC’s thanks and admiration to Albert Lee for an outstanding evening of music.
- With characteristic modesty, Lee downplays the statement. “This has been quoted a number of times but I think it was actually misquote. I have spoken to him about it and he kind of joked with me so I really don’t know. There are so many different ways to play the guitar that I couldn’t pick the best guitar player in the world. And I don’t know who could. I like to think I am pretty successful at what I do, and we should just be happy about it. With so many different styles, who can say really who is the greatest?” ↩
- Cynics will say, “Yes, but the Sapphire Room was air-conditioned and Outlaw Field was a sauna.” Mostly irrelevant. Besides, the artist picks the venue, and WC has a soft spot for small, intimate venues like The Sapphire Room. But Albert Lee’s show would have been spectacular in a gymnasium. ↩