Tim Lee 3 – Raucous Americanus

January 01, 1970

(Cool Dog Sound)

 

www.timleethree.com

 

Anyone who’s followed Knoxville
rocker Tim Lee’s career to date won’t be surprised to learn that his latest
release is a stomping, snorting, uncompromising barn-burner. As far back as the
early ‘80s, when he was ½ of the songwriting brain trust behind power pop
mavens the Windbreakers, his material tended towards the heavier side of the
genre, Lee providing a Lennonesque foil to bandmate Bobby Sutliff’s McCartney.
More recently, over the course of the past decade or so (following an extended
hiatus during the ‘90s), he’s issued a succession of inspired records under his
own name and as the Tim Lee 3 that paints a portrait of a songwriter equally at
home laying down sweet jangles and thundering southern rock riffage.

 

I’m hardly an unbiased observer, of course: full disclosure,
I’ve penned liner notes in the past for Lee. But what will raise eyebrows, however, and what left me picking up my jaw
from the floor, is how absolutely seamless and inspired, from get-go to closing
track, the aptly-titled Raucous
Americanus
is across 21 tracks and two full discs. That’s right: a double CD. Didn’t those things go out
of style around the time that Winamp players starting turning up as
pre-installed software on new laptops?

 

But rawk it do. Fueled on barbecue and beers, Lee and his
bandmates Susan Bauer Lee (bass, keys) and Matt Honkonen (drums, percussion)
serve up tuneage recorded at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium (Lee’s friendship with
Easter dates to Windbreakers days) and at Tucson’s Wave Lab with Craig
Schumacher and Chris Schultz (the band’s 2008 album, good2b3, was also cut at Wave Lab). And the results are staggering,
a mélange of Stones-styled crunchers, Creedence-tilting swamp rock, blazing
slices of power pop and the occasional folk/country-rock flourish for good
measure, all filtered through a vibrantly melodic sensibility that speaks to
the group’s road-tested aesthetic and, of course, Lee’s long legacy as a
tunesmith. (He shares songwriting credit on most tracks with wife Susan, by the
way.)

 

A cursory sampling hardly does justice, as these discs
deserve to just be cued up and played all the way through. But still: opener
“What I Have Not Got” twangs up a storm in vintage cowpunk fashion… the sinewy,
undulating “Long Way to the Ground” builds steadily until it mutates into a
virtual ZZ Top outtake… “Bullets in the Barn” is patterned on an irresistible
tremolo-strafed surf motif and features a supernova of a wah-wah guitar solo…
“Salty Tears” taps the aforementioned Stones well for inspiration, boasting a
“Honky Tonk Women”-esque riff and a sassy guy-gal vocal arrangement… “Dig It
Up,” with Susan Lee taking the vocal and Schumacher guesting on some naaasty harmonica, hits the Tony Joe
White sweet spot like nobody’s business… “Bigger,” aglow with 12-string jangles
and stealthy slide licks, hearkens back to the Windbreakers’ earlier pop moves,
with a dose of cosmic cowboy Byrds thrown in for good measure.

 

In short, Raucous
Americanus
pretty much touches upon Lee’s entire spectrum of musical
influences, its sharply-defined tracks ultimately shimmering and shimmying in
the mind long after the disc has spun. You’ll be humming ‘em for days. 21
friggin’ songs, eh? If this were a vinyl platter, you could literally drop the
needle down and random and strike sonic gold. Start diggin’, kids.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Dig It
Up,” “Good Times,” “Bullets in the Barn,” “Salty Tears,” Shipwreck” FRED MILLS

 

 

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