UK Farewell Tour
Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne, Dorset
Wednesday 23rd September 2015, 7.30 pm
Albert Lee “with his American Touring Band”
Albert Lee- guitar, vocals, piano
Cindy Cashdollar – steel guitar
John “J.T.” Thomas- keyboards, accordion, vocals
Will MacGregor – bass, vocals
Jason Harrison Smith – drums, vocals
Supported by The Palmerstons (SEE BELOW)
I’m Ready (Fats Domino)
Two Step Too (Delbert McLinton)
Wheels (Gram Parsons)
Mexico City Hangover (Hoyt Axton)
You Know You Just Might (???)
Song For The Life (Rodney Crowell)
Runaway Train (John Stewart)
Luxury Liner (Gram Parsons)
Spellbound (Paul Kennerley) – AL acoustic guitar
No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile (Everly Bros)
Leave My Woman Alone (Ray Charles)
Highwayman (Jimmy Webb) – AL piano
Till I Gain Control Again (Rodney Crowell) – AL piano, JT- accordion
Rad Gumbo (Little Feat)
Country Boy (Albert Lee)
18 Yellow Roses (Bobby Darin) – solo acoustic gtr
A Better Place (Glen Campbell) – AL piano
Tear It Up (Johnny Burnette)
I saw Albert Lee with Head, Hands & Feet, The Everly Brothers twice and Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings twice for certain. I might have seen him with Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds, but I never took note of who was who in those days. I must have dozens of LP with Albert Lee on the credits.
The American touring band are a tight unit, though the stage set up with piano, bass and steel guitar all packed together stage left, drums at the rear and Albert Lee barely just stage right of centre looked too “tight” … a bit odd … Albert Lee’s Yamaha keyboard, used for three or four songs … had the whole of stage right to itself.
I guess many had come because Albert Lee is one of the definitive sidemen / session men of the last fifty years … he told us he’d lived in California for forty of them. He could have made a living as a singer too. But then he could have made a living as a pianist too. I already knew he was a great singer … the highlights of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings in 2011 was Albert Lee and Beverley Skeete singing So Sad as a duet, and in 2013 Albert Lee and Beverley Skeete duetting on Crying In The Rain.
The main issue is that with the exception of Country Boy, these are all covers. There are other Albert Lee compositions or co-compositions, but we have a set of carefully curated first-rate rock ‘n’ roll and country rock songs. It sounds harsh, but in some ways it’s like a very good American bar band, with one of the world’s best guitar players on board. That’s not supposed to be a criticism, but it’s a different kind of set, so much ido we fall into the mindset of expected singer-songwriter for this kind of music. Of course Elvis Presley, or Cliff Richard also did a set of carefully-selected covers. The other issue is that for some of this sort of material … The Flying Burrito Brothers Wheels, Everly Brothers No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile… you really need a second major vocalist. The drummer, Jason Harrison Smith, added vocals on these numbers and did so particularly well, but you need the second vocalist more upfront. Maybe having seen the excellent support band with five vocalists in line highlighted this.
Many of the songs have such personal associations that they’re “not quite” covers, basically because you name them, Albert Lee played with them. Take the long association with the Everly Brothers, then Rodney Crowell was with Albert and Emmylou Harris in The Hot Band (who can be heard doing Luxury Liner in 1977 from The Old Grey Whistle Test.) Then the second set opens with Paul Kennerley’s Spellbound and Albert Lee was on Kennerley’s The Legend of Jesse James concept album with Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Charlie Daniels and Emmylou Harris. There are two Rodney Crowell songs in the set, another long-time associate … Albert Lee played on Rodney Crowell’s first solo album which included Song For The Life (one of the highlights of the first set).
For me No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile was the major thrill, with the band quieter. Albert Lee does Everly Brothers especially well, and I’d have liked more. (See YouTube for a version 5 weeks earlier … same band, same stage set up).
Spellbound stood out because Albert Lee switched to acoustic guitar (and it’s also such a good song).
The piano numbers were outstanding Highwayman and Till I Gain Control Again. In the first the drums were minimal, which aided the sound … the vocal was clearer, and in the second J.T. Thomas moved to piano accordion so that the sound overall was very different. There had been a similarity tendency up to that point … Albert Lee invariably taking the first guitar solo, followed by Cindy Cashdollar for the second solo, and pedal steel does tend to eliding its way through the top line melody as a solo. There were lots of fine, short piano solos, but mainly similar in style. The Albert Lee piano numbers changed the mood and balance, though I guess the previous number Ray Charles’ Leave My Woman Alone had also changed the pattern with a fine and concise drum solo, followed by a wonderful longer piano solo from J.T. Thomas, which was almost “Garth Hudson” in its quotes from other tunes.
The encores were particularly strong. They started with Bobby Darin’s 18 Yellow Roses … just Albert Lee and acoustic guitar. Just playing. No fancy bits. Wonderful vocal. Then Glen Campbell’s sublime song A Better Place with Albert Lee moving to piano and the band gradually coming in. And finally Johnny Burnette’s Tear It Up, back on electric guitar for a full band rendition. Massive applause from a full house at Wimborne.
Alan Rondeau – lead vocal, guitar, percussion
Martin Hartup – guitar, vocal
Dave Norman – bass guitar, vocal
Andy Powell – harmonica, banjo, percussion, vocals
Peter Ball- fiddle, accordion, keyboards, vocals
Out On A Limb (Alan Rondeau)
First Time Offender (Alan Rondeau)
Baby’s Eyes (Alan Rondeau)
On The Line (Alan Rondeau)
Working Late (Alan Rondeau)
Mistress Alcohol (Alan Rondeau)
Angelina (Alan Rondeau)
A lot of fun, great vocals with all five standing in line, singing, and it proves (yet again) how good a drummerless set sounds … vocals are way clearer and bass guitar and percussion carry the rhythm section. The original songs are country rock styled, and though all written by Alan Rondeau, everyone got to do a lead vocal which gave stylistic differences. I found the opening and closing songs with Peter Ball on fiddle the strongest, because they veered more towards English folk-rock than American perhaps. I liked Peter Ball’s lead vocal too – a slight nod towards Tom Waits perhaps rather than straight country-rock. Alan Rondeau is an outstanding vocalist. Angelina was the stand out song of the evening. I’d go to see these guys on their own.