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Small, Lee: Jamaica Inn

Lee Small may not quite yet be the household name that his remarkably soulful, expressive voice deserves him to be, however with a track record that takes in Cloven Hoof, Native Cain, Phenomena a much under rated debut solo album and most recently Shy, (whose self titled release is undoubtedly one of the albums of the year), there's no doubt that he is a man in demand. With solo release number two - Jamaica Inn, it is very easy to hear why.

Lee's first stand alone release Through The Eyes Of Robert Lees was a fantastic mixture of up-tempo rockers and beautiful ballads which did reveal a more soulful side to his music. However with Jamaica Inn, Lee has gone the whole hog and created a laid back collection of soul and gently funked up tracks, which still pulsate with the energy - the likes of which Glenn Hughes has been trying to make this good for many a year. They may not "Rock" in the conventional sense, but in no sense is this an album which lacks for guitar led crunch, or punchy drums, although it does so in a decidedly refined and easy going manner. The star of the show is however undoubtedly Lee's vocals, with his rich, resonating tones being reminiscent of Glenn Hughes, although he does it all in a less histrionic way than his fellow West Midlander. That said the guitar work courtesy of Carl Anthony-Wright, Des Sherwood, Lee himself and special guest Martin Kronlund (Gypsy Rose) is of the highest calibre, whether they be on the easy, jazzy tones of "Waiting For The Hangman" (which has an awesome solo), or the bouncing, Thunder like rhythms of "Walk The Plank". Those song titles (and the pictures of Lee in bandana, and buccaneer style jacket on his web site), give a strong hint as to the idea behind the lyrics of Jamaica Inn, with all the songs linked through the theme of life on the open seas during the days of pirates and smugglers. Thankfully the subject matter is handled in mature and stylish manner, with a lot of the sea-faring lyrics having double meanings which transfer into more everyday situations - and I do love the short squeeze box version of "Carry On My Wayward Son" which closes the album! The theme of the songs and the way in which they seamlessly flow into each other gives the whole release a tremendously cohesive feel that many albums lack these days.

Lee handles bass duties across the album, with the line up completed by Saracen keyboard player Paul Bradder and Gypsy Rose drummer Imre Daun, with the latter giving a master class of "less is more", with every snare crack and cymbal crash sounding vital to the songs. Actually that is a theme of the album, with the wonderful arrangements adding atmosphere and emotion to the songs without ever cluttering them up with needless "bells and whistles".

If you have a penchant for classy, bluesy, soulful, yet rocking songs that are expertly performed and wonderfully presented, then you are going to find a huge amount to lose yourself in with the excellently poised Jamaica Inn. Add to that a vocal performance of the highest standard (I really can't stress how high that high standard is!) and you really do have an album well worth sailing the Seven Seas for.

Track Listing
1.Jamaica Inn
2.The Captain's Quarters
3.Black Bess
4.Walk the Plank
5.Shine A Light
6.Dead Man Walking
8.I am the sea
9.Smuggler's Blues
10.Waiting for the Hangman
11.End of the road
12.The Renegade Accordion Player

Added: December 7th 2011
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Lee Small Official Web Site
Hits: 3548
Language: english

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