CD Review of Road Runner by Albert Lee

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Road Runner
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Sugar Hill
Released: 2006
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If you ever find yourself driving down an old dusty road in, say, Texas or California, in a beaten-up but very reliable convertible and the warm air is blowing your hair back, Albert Lee’s incredibly satisfying and pleasant Roadrunner should provide the soundtrack (provided you had a compact disc player installed in the old car).

His pedigree is undeniable having started playing professionally at the age of 16 and completed tours of duty with Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, the Everly Brothers and a little known super group called Bif Baby’s All Stars which also included Eddie Van Halen and ex-Dixie Dreg and current Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse. Lee, who has played blues, R&B and bluegrass, has settled into a wonderful country career that features music that keeps the toe tapping and a smile on your face. His gee-tar pickin’ is pitch perfect and nimble without sounding like a showoff. The songs have a real swing to them and his guitar playing provides that momentum.

Roadrunner consists of eight covers from a range of songwriters including John Hiatt (“Rock of Your Love”), Billy Burnette and Tony Colton (“Didn’t Start Living”) and Leo Kotke (“Julie’s House”). Two other songs were written for the record, including Lee’s own “Payola Blues.” The song features the most kinetic guitar work on the album and a mini-duel between Lee’s guitar and Buddy Emmons’ pedal steel.

Lee’s voice is comfortable like the first sweatshirt you pull out of your dresser when summer changes to an autumn cool. The best track on the record is the duet between Lee and his daughter Alexandra on the Richard Thompson-penned “Dimming of the Day.” It is absolutely beautiful accented by their contrasting voices.

This is one of the ten best releases of the year. Fire up that convertible, find a long winding road and go for a 42 minute and 23 second drive. You’ll be glad you did.

~R. David Smola