There’s Talk About a Fence


SKU: 1999 Category:


There’s Talk About A Fence
is brimful of story songs old and new, with the conflict between new and old
ways represented by Chuck Brodsky’s song about “The Come Heres and The Been
Heres” coexisting fitfully in a North Carolina town. Jerry Bryant’s “Harbo and
Samuelsen” tells the inspiring true story of two oystermen who rowed from New
York to France at the turn of the last century. Lee has resurrected a priceless
piece of Irish poetry by Sigerson Clifford, the riveting “The Tinkerman’s Daughter,”
set by Tim Dennehy; powerful traditional ballads “Daemon Lover” and “Dives and
Lazarus;” and a peculiar, moving American folk song, “Lunatic Asylum.” Rick
composed four of the songs, with additional titles from Lauren LeCroy May and
John Lincoln Wright.
Produced by Andy May, who plays guitar, mandolin, and sings; The Rick Lee Trio:
Dave Howard, guitar, Bill Walach, mandolin; Jim Heffernan, dobro and pedal steel
guitars; and Heidi Basgall, backing vocals.

Rick Lee looks out from the CD cover, tall and imposing, no mustache, gray
hair growing wild from the fringes of his head, with a patchy-looking long
beard flowing from the fringes of his face as he plays a banjo. One could
imagine him as the leader of a fundamentalist, banjo-playing cult if you
were not familiar with his work. Fortunately I was already hooked on his
music after hearing his last release “Natick”. I knew that I would soon be
hearing his comfortable, resonant voice singing a mix of traditional and
contemporary songs.

The album starts with “Bear,” a song by his guitarist Andy May, about a
bear contemplating crossing an icy river. Lee’s piano helps create a
feeling of wonder and drama in this simple story, and May’s arrangement is
a thing of understated beauty. The next song is Chuck Brodsky’s wryly
humorous “The Come Heres and the Been Heres.” The songs that follow range
from traditional folk songs written by contemporary writers to fresh
arrangements of traditional material.

Rick Lee has the gift of being able to straighten out the wrinkles of the
archaic phrasing found in much traditional material with the warmth of his
voice and his emotional connection to the words he is singing. “Daemon
Lover” is a
good example of this. His banjo playing is extremely expressive and
subtle, taking you to the heart of each song. The effect is to
simultaneously make each song personal and archetypal. Perhaps the most
powerful of the songs is “Lunatic Asylum,” written by two patients in an
asylum in the 1970s. It is just Lee and his banjo making you feel the
patients’ desperate and lonely hope in the face of a harrowing experience.

There is not a weak song on this album – there doesn’t have to be. Lee is a
collector of music as well as a songwriter. He only chooses songs that
move him and he has the ability to move the listener as well. Not that it
is all serious stuff; he closes the album with “Don‚t Pet The Dog,” an ode
to oversexed and misdirected little dogs! -Michael Devlin,
Music Matters Review, Smithtown, NY


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