Be sure to catch the CD release show for Palmer T. Lee’s Winebringer on Wednesday, January 29 at the Hook and Ladder.
Palmer T. Lee likes poetry.
His current band, The Lowest Pair, is named after a John Hartford poem. The title of his first solo album, Winebringer, is influenced by the Sufi poet Hafiz’s poetry collection The Book of the Winebringer. Fittingly, Lee has the passion and wit of a poet on his debut full-length.
Winebringer is loosely related to the Americana that he’s made in both The Lowest Pair and Boys and the Barrels, but it is also different in some key ways. Primarily a banjoist for awhile now, he returned to writing songs on guitar. He brings the visceral stomp of the banjo to his strumming, which with his strong vocal performances adds unique energy to the songs. This is especially apparent on “Rag,” “Aw Jeez,” and the title track.
Lee shines, though, on the more subdued material. Mandolin and fiddle give laid-back “Uneasy” a cool flavor. The same instrumentation adds a lot to “Moon You,” a bittersweet love song that features harmonies from Anna Gordon. “So Between the Eyes” balances Lee’s subtlety and passion, while haunting “Rice and Beets” sustains momentum for 7+ minutes.
He returns to the banjo for closing “Fiddle Bow,” which might be the best track. It begins with a sweet, old-time fiddle duet before transitioning into perfectly laid-back folk. The lyrics are Lee at his most poetic: “How does the fiddle bow out those words that tear me down/while the band just sang a hundred of them but I couldn’t hear a sound/except for the fiddle bow and those hot licks that lay me out.”
On his debut solo album, Palmer T. Lee shows his strength as a songwriter in his own right.