Albert Lee

Heartbreak Hill

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Albert Lee has garnered such a good command of American country music it will probably surprise a few listeners that he was born in England. On Heartbreak Hill, he delves into a number of songs associated with Gram Parsons, Rodney Crowell, and former bandmate Emmylou Harris. Lee has a well-deserved rep for his guitar skills, so it makes good sense that he's joined by a top-notch band that includes veteran steel player Buddy Emmons. The band opens strong with the jaunty title cut before sliding into Paul Kennerley's heartbreaking "Heaven Only Knows." Lee's joined on vocals by Patty Loveless on the first cut and Buddy Miller on the latter, adding extra pizzazz to the choruses. The arrangements -- steel, piano, drums, and bass -- achieve a good blend behind the vocals, while Lee's multiple guitar parts add subtle touches in unexpected places. Other enjoyable cuts include Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You," Kennerley's "Born to Run," and -- for guitar fans -- an instrumental take on Parsons' "Luxury Liner." Heartbreak Hill never overwhelms the listener with its originality, at least partially because it is so grounded in music associated with other people. But Lee and his bandmates have crafted a solid and likable album that lovingly recalls the best of '70s and '80s country.

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