Born in Bristol, played all over the world for the last fifteen years, Jimmy Lee has just released his debut album, Broken, and it’s good. Lee has played pubs, clubs and restaurants and radio, television and Las Vegas Casinos.
Broken is the album of a man who has ‘paid his dues’ as they used to say (If you look on his website, you’ll also see a ‘List of Acts’ that he’s involved with.). The playing is nimble, dextrous – without being showy. The feel is acoustic; the tracks are blues, country, folk; the lyrics fuse the simple “I hope you find peace tonight”, referential “There’s a lonesome whistle blowin’ “, neat “Now you’re alone in what was once a crowded room” and metaphorical – I imagine Pete the busker really did have rings of gold and a cane of shining silver, but it’s also a great image for the respect he’s held in by a nineteen-year-old busker (the narrator of the song, perhaps Lee himself?) starting out.
Put all this together and you’ve got an album of fourteen self-penned songs which Lee plays with a guitar style which is gloriously clear. I’d call it under-stated – except that it’s bang on.
The album opens with a blues, ‘Lonesome Frail and Blue’. While other tracks return to blues, the more dominant style is folk/country/ballads. At times it’s pepped up with a bit of electric flavouring (‘3/4ths Drunk’ for example), but equally the arrangement of ‘Easy Way Out’ adds whistling; both work.
The picture on the album cover shows Lee with a guitar, the words “This machine kills fascists” on the top. The reference to Woody Guthrie is matched with early-Dylan guitar playing on ‘Ghost in Blue Jeans’, a song which has a lyric including the line “It’s life and life only”. Lee clearly knows his history.
Above all, though, Broken is a debut album from 2021, and it feels modern, not old. If you’re re-opening a club in the next month or two, I’d give this album a good listen; I can imagine that the songs from Broken would work at least as well in a live setting as they do on this rather splendid album.
Artist’s website: https://www.jimmyleegigs.com
‘Broken’ – official video: