- Miles Hedley
ALBERT LEE at Blackheath Halls
Updated: Mar 9, 2019
He may be 75 but guitar genius Albert Lee shows no signs of slowing up, either in his touring and studio schedule or – as those of us lucky enough to catch him at Blackheath Halls can attest – in the amazing speed of his fingers on the fretboard of his trademark red and white Music Man.
Lee is rightly revered by the great and the good of the music world, having played with everyone from the Crickets and Bo Diddley to Eric Clapton, the Everly Brothers and Willie Nelson.
They love his lack of ego, his genre-blurring range and the unique purity of the sound he generates, especially in the lower registers, as he weaves his magic on the guitar.
The Blackheath gig, played a stone’s throw from where Lee spent a chunk of his childhood, was a perfect exhibition of his breathtaking talent.
Backed by brilliant youngsters Ollie Sears (drums), Ben Golding (bass) and Ross Spurdle (keyboards), he gave a masterclass in how to play rock’n’roll and his beloved country rock.
He also told a string of very funny anecdotes about fellow musicians including Elvis, Marty Wilde, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell.
Lee opened with Fats Domino’s I’m Ready before moving on to his own Your Boys, Gram Parsons’ Wheels, a quick blast of Carl Perkins and then, slowing it down, Rodney Crowell’s ballad Song For The Life which he graced with a languidly gorgeous solo.
The rest of the first half was relentlessly uptempo: John Stewart’s Runaway Train, Parsons’ Luxury Liner – a song he recorded with Emmylou Harris – and Delbert McClinton’s Every Time I Roll The Dice.
He rounded off Part One with Sonny Curtis’ Rock Around With Ollie Vee, written for Lee’s idol Buddy Holly.
The second half began with Spellbound, which set the tone for a riproaring final hour.
Buddy Holly’s Crying, Waiting, Hoping was followed by Ray Charles’ Leave My Woman Alone and Jimmy Webb’s The Highwayman.
More Buddy next with Well… All Right before Lee launched into Sonny Curtis’ I Fought The Law and his signature tune I’m Just A Country Boy, which featured two of his finest solos in an evening already overflowing with brilliant licks.
Lee took to the keyboard himself to play a lovely version of Buddy Holly’s Learning The Game before he and the band bowed out with two real showstoppers - Chuck Berry’s stonking Back In The USA and Johnny Burnette’s rockabilly classic Tear It Up.
The cheering crowd, most of them direct contemporaries of Lee, gave him a standing ovation. It was richly deserved.