I must have been about 13 or 14 when I first saw Albert Lee play live. It was the early 90's and I was a moody adolescent holed up in my room listening to bands like Suede and Blur (before they were big, of course). My dad announced that he had tickets to see The Everly Brothers at the Caird Hall in Dundee and we were all going. I was horrified. I didn't want to go and see The Everly Brothers. They made old man music. It was bad enough that I was forced to listen to them when we went a run in the car. 'I'm not going to see the bloody elderly brothers!', I exclaimed.
My dad was deaf to my protests, and on the day of the concert I was bundled into the back of the family car (a white Ford Orion) and we set off for Dundee. 'This is a violation of my human rights!' I huffed. My dad just I'm not going to see the bloody elderly brothers!sighed, reached forward, and turned up the car stereo. 'Here he comes, that's Cathys Clown' he sang along as we pulled away.
Three hours later, I was sitting in the car on the way home, wearing an Everly Brothers t-shirt and a massive grin. It was the first big, 'proper' gig that I'd ever been to and the quality of the music and the band (of which Albert Lee was the musical director) had slowly broken down my resistance. I was completely won over. It was like I had been to one of those big tent Christian faith healers and they'd cured me of being a moody teenager. Even to this day, I think it's the best group of musicians that I've ever had the pleasure to see play together. Don and Phil's harmonies were otherworldy and of course, Albert totally killed it on the guitar.
That was probably about 25 years ago, and it is only tonight that I'm finally getting to see Albert as a solo artist. I tried to get tickets to see him the last time he played in Kinross but although he was playing two nights, both were already sold out. I was pretty gutted. That's all forgotten straight away as Albert and his young band launch straight into a guitar-heavy version of the Fats Domino classic 'I'm Ready'. Albert breaks out a blisteringly fast but crystal clear guitar solo that ascends and descends the fretboard like a toddler playing in a lift.
This is followed by a couple of country-tinged numbers, 'Two Step Too' by Delbert McClinton, and The Flying Burrito Brothers 'Wheels'. 'Wheels' is a cracking slice of country rock, with an irresistible boogie-woogie bassline and a lovely three-part harmony courtesy of drummer Ollie and bass player Ben.
The fleet of foot Carl Perkins number, 'Restless' brings us back to Rock n' Roll territory. A short solo towards the end has bass player Ben Golding looking on in disbelief at Alberts blurred fingers. It's the sort of performance that would depress other musicians as they could practice for thousands of hours and never be able to play it quite as well. It's fast but it's not frenetic and you can hear every single note cleanly. Most importantly, it sounds good. Really, really good.
During the second half of the show, Mr Lee moves over to the piano for a rendition of Jimmy Webb's 'Highwayman', the signature song of rebel country supergroup Highwaymen. Like any right-thinking individual, I love Jimmy Webb and I've always had a soft spot for the Highwaymen, who for my money are the best supergroup (yeah, you heard me Travellin' Wilbury's!). Albert and this band did an amazing version of this song on the 2018 revival of 'The Old Grey Whistle Test'. Tonight they don't disappoint. Albert's playing is exquisite, the drumming is faultless and the keyboard player, Ross, provides a beautiful synth string part.
Albert stays at the piano for a plaintive 'Til I Gain Control Again'. This song was written for Emmylou Harris by Rodney Crowell, and when Lee joined Emmylou's Hot Band in 1976 the trio played it live together. As on Highwayman, I'm struck by how good Albert's voice is. Vocally he really excels at this sort of material, never putting a foot wrong and wringing every last drop of emotion from the songs. Similarly touching is his performance of The Everly's, 'No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile'. Albert takes Don's vocal part and Ollie really impresses with his Phil Everly-esque high harmony.
Albert Lee has recently released an album of Buddy Holly covers. He was, in fact, an honorary Cricket after Buddy's death and recorded and toured with them for a spell. Tonight he plays tribute to Buddy with one of his slower numbers, 'Crying, Waiting, Hoping', which benefits from some more great harmonies from the band.
The show ends with one of Mr Lee's best-known songs, the raucous rockabilly Mr Lee announces he will be returning to Backstage at the Green again next year, this time for a 3-night residency. 'Country Boy', which is the ultimate showcase for his fast, chicken pickin' style. Under the guise of taking photo's, I sneak down to the front of the stage to get a better look. The speed at which Albert plays is quite simply phenomenal. He's totally shredding but there's not a hint of distortion and again you can hear every single individual note. Of course, the capacity crowd goes crazy and the band returns with an encore. The very last song is 'Tear it Up', which sees Albert trading solos with piano player Ross, who plays his heart out. At the end of the gig, Mr Lee announces he will be returning to Backstage at the Green next year. This time for a 3-night residency. If you want to see one of the worlds greatest living guitarist on your doorstep, you could do a lot worse than to grab some tickets.
Perth Festival of the Arts has joined forces with its 2020 artists to create a 10-day online celebration to ‘celebrate the arts together'.
May 21st Thursday 2020
Dougie Maclean's new Perthshire festival this summer: Cardney Concerts.
March 18th Wednesday 2020
Party at The Park, the South Inch, 27th and 28th June, will feature fantastic live performances from The Charlatans and many more!
March 12th Thursday 2020