Rick Lee

Natick

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Combining traditional banjo frailing with more contemporary styles, Rick Lee's Natick is an excellent example of this unique musician's talents. Opening with the tragic tale of a 17th century Native American culture that was overwhelmed by the white settlers who crowded and killed them, the title track sets the pace for an album that is by turns thoughtful and light hearted. Though Lee only penned two of the 15 tracks here, he fills out his set with excellent covers and traditional arrangements. The charming tale of "High Part of Town" brings to mind the grandfatherly charm of Tom T. Hall, just as the rather standard country of "I Made the Prison Band" calls to mind Johnny Cash. When Lee plays electric piano, as on the fascinating "The Tinkerman's Daughter" and the poignant "Strangers," he achieves an almost Cat Stevens-like dramatic mysteriousness. Still, Lee most shines when he tackles more strictly traditional material, like the Appalachian-influenced "Lady Margaret," as well as borrowing arrangements of Uncle Dave Macon's "Rise When the Rooster Crows" and Doc Boggs' "The Prodigal Son." Though traditionalists probably won't mind the occasional combining of frailing banjo and electric piano, when Lee incorporates drum machines into the mix, the results are a little awkward but shouldn't be enough to scare people away from this largely impressive set. Everything taken into account, Lee is amazingly talented, and Natick does an excellent job of showcasing his diverse gifts.

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