Sixty-nine-year-old British guitar hero Albert Lee brought an intensity and technical acumen to his nearly two-hour set at Jazz Alley Monday that defied his years. As Lee tore through a cover of the Fats Domino classic “I’m Ready,” with its repeating refrain “I’m ready, I’m willin’, and I’m able to rock and roll all night,” you truly believed him.
For over 40 years Lee has been a mainstay in alternative country and old-school James Burton/Carl Perkins-style rock and roll, with a list of credits that includes the Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly’s Crickets and Eric Clapton.
The setlist on his one night stand at the Alley was like a journey through the musical past, with Lee as a tour guide. Some of the gems included a countrified take on Ray Charles’ “Leave My Woman Alone,” the rockabilly flavored “Spellbound” and a touching tribute to his friends The Everly Brothers with “No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile.”
The best moment was Lee’s closing performance of “Country Boy,” which he wrote while a member of the British sixties country-rock group Head Hands and Feet. Lee introduced the song by saying, “We thought we knew how to write a country song in England back then…we lasted eighteen months.” Despite this modesty, Lee ripped into his candy apple red signature series Music Man guitar with real heat, playing the fastest and most impressive array of country licks this side of Chet Atkins.
Country music has gone through major transformations since Lee first started playing it many decades ago. However, there aren’t many people in the world who can play old school country as expertly and with such passion as Albert Lee.