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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Phil Lee & The Horse He Rode In On | New Album w/ Billy Talbot & Ralph Molina


Here's some news on an upcoming album by Phil Lee, a long time friend of L.A. Johnson and the Shakey Crew.

Phil Lee has a new record -- The Horse He Rode In On -- coming out in December with Crazy Horse's Billy Talbot on bass and Ralph Molina on drums as the core of his band. Phil lives near Ralph and they play together frequently. It's a pretty cool record with great tunes.


In this day of calculated some-assembly-required Americana nimrods strutting around in Civil War outfits, rodeo garb, and ripped jeans declaring themselves outlaws and poets, Phil Lee stands out like a Krugerand in a pile of tarnished pesos. A former truck driver with a penchant for throwing knives to keep his head in the right place, Lee managed to escape Durham, North Carolina with his drum kit and guitars before the authorities felt the need to restrain his activities. After further adventures and misadventures, Lee eventually fell in with Neil Young’s organization where, with that CDL of his, he drove the Rust Never Sleeps props around, performed as Young’s party band on a few special occasions, and became part and parcel of the whole organism that is Crazy Horse.


Ralph Molina, Phil Lee & Billy Talbot

On his latest album, Lee teams up with old Crazy Horse pals and California neighbors Ralph Molina (drums) and Billy Talbot (bass) — “the horse he rode in on,” get it? The core threesome is augmented by legendary keyboard wiz Barry Goldberg (Electric Flag, Steve Miller Band) and guitar slinger Jan King. Add-ons include long time cohort and guitar maestro Richard Bennett (Neil Diamond, Mark Knopfler), twang guru Bill Kirchen, Bill Lloyd of Foster and Lloyd fame, slide guitarist David Weeks, keyboardist and another long time associate Jack Irwin, guitarists Dorian Michael and George Bradfute, and singers Molly Pasutti and Taryn Engel. Molina, Talbot, and Lee laid the basic tracks at Painted Sky Studio in Cambria, CA, then let the cast fill in a few holes. Jake Berger and Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam) add their guitars to one track. Lee says the biggest problem with the creative process was getting people “to stop fixing it.”


Billy Talbot

Lee has been at this long enough — his first Shanachie album Mighty King of Love dropped in 1999 — to subscribe to Vince Bell’s adage, “The first time it’s art, the second time it’s show biz.” His view on fixing everything? “It’s Crazy Horse, not Tidy Horse, for Christsakes.” He uses “Bad For Me” as an example.

“This is my personal favorite. It’s a personal song anyway but I dig how we played as if we were all buying into it and all mad as hell by the end. And heartbroken. Wild and mercurial and nowhere near perfect, it starts out low key and confidential but because we cut it live and can hear each other and feel the emotion, the song was gradually able to build to a seething, guitar-smashing crescendo. Also, because we hadn’t really talked about how to end it, we just ran out of steam at the end. We could’ve faded it easy, but I’m glad we didn’t. It would have been wrong. It’s this soul-deep empathy that keeps Big Daddy Neil coming back for more. They feel it like you feel it, they aren’t phoning it in. It’s not about the paycheck.”


Ralph Molina, Billy Talbot, & Phil Lee

Indeed one of the album’s greatest charms is its ragged, dangerous, we-could-be-in-jail-soon feel. But as always, Lee brings the words that make us pay attention and climb deep into the all-to-familiar, all-to-common scenarios of friendship and love, of the attainment and the loss. And the damage. A master of sly-dog observation and telling regional colloquialisms, Lee throws out lines none of today’s Americana wannabes could. “I was kickin’ down some doors / I was in my party drawers / Where were you when all of that was going on?” Lee even remakes the title track from his first album, “The Mighty King of Love” and the newer version finds him in a reflective, 4 a.m. frame of mind, the impish smart-ass persona of the original replaced by a man who’s seen the damage love can do and is still feeling the aftershocks. Some of Lee’s characters are survivors, but there’s accompanying wreckage that can’t be put entirely out of mind. Both “Turn to Stone” and “Wake Up Crying” work this ever fertile psychic turf.


Phil Lee
Photo by Will Mitchell | Hands on Sound

More on Phil Lee & The Horse He Rode In On.

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2 Comments:

At 12/13/2018 02:21:00 PM, Blogger rolandthompsongunner said...

I look forward to giving this a listen. Seeing this makes my heart happy. Bless Ralph, never see him without a trusty Yankees ball cap.

 
At 4/01/2019 08:47:00 PM, Blogger paulk said...

I spoke to Phil about the album and even managed a short email dialogue with Billy and Ralph. You can read it here. https://americana-uk.com/phil-lee-on-how-he-finally-saddled-up-with-crazy-horse

 

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