Lee Bob Watson
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Lee Bob Watson

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Lee Bob Watson
Aficionado
(Grass Roots Record Co, August 21rst, 2007)

Woven into every beat on Lee Bob Watson’s latest gem, Aficionado, are the tales and life lessons picked up from 12 storied years spent on the road. Reminiscent of the places he’s been—from the country infused pop of 70’s L.A. and soul-jazz of New Orleans, to the laidback roots of California’s Central Valley—Watson’s blend of sounds hearkens back to the late ‘60s and ‘70s, when genres converged and popular music created a sense of common purpose in a weary and divided nation. His sure and slightly weathered vocals—with touches of a country-gentleman drawl—combine with angelic gospel harmonies, enchanting orchestrations and tight pop arrangements to make Aficionado an album that resonates with experience and longing.

Known for his work with California rockers Jackpot, dubbed by The New York Times as “one of California’s greatest unknown bands”, as well as punk-gospel band Santa Cruz Gospel Choir, Sacramento, CA native Lee Bob Watson has been a powerful force in music for 10 years. For Aficionado, Watson enlisted former Cake drummer Todd Roper, current Cake bassist Gabe Nelson and Jackpot singer and guitarist Rusty Miller and a handful of Northern California’s finest talent. With help from esteemed producer Dana Gumbiner, the crew recorded the album in just 10 days, relying mostly on live-takes and minimal overdubs.

The songs on Aficionado grapple with the quest for authenticity in a culture that is based on recycled themes and sounds. “So much of our generation spends a lot of time rehashing the glory days of pop culture” Watson comments, “you’ve got to take your influences and let them breathe in the room.” The result is a captivating album that serves as a playground for decades of sounds to intermingle. Opener “Landfill” sends a strong statement about the land on which the American Dream was built with a twangy-rock swagger and perfectly placed steel guitar. “Living in the Past” brings electronic-disco funk to life with a back-beat that would make Bill Withers proud. Beach Boys-inspired harmonies burst alongside Watson’s velvety croon on “Highway 1 Sunset” and gentle lullaby “Rosalita’s Arms” brings the album to a sweet finish with saintly soprano choruses and dainty piano tingles.
- Press Here Publicity


No stranger to the music industry, Watson has been performing and writing songs for 10 years. He self-produced three solo albums and one album with the punk-gospel band The Santa Cruz Gospel Choir. He also played and
recorded with the Sacramento-based band Jackpot, which The New York Times dubbed "one of California's greatest unknown bands."

Surrounded by his dream team of former Cake drummer Todd Roper, Cake bassist Gabe Nelson, Jackpot guitarist Rusty Miller and a handful of local musicians, Watson recorded the album ÒAficionadoÓ in 10 days.

"So much of our generation spends a lot of time rehashing the glory days of pop culture," said Watson, who prefers a fresh take on a retro sound. "You've got to take your influences and let them breathe in the room."

In his music, you can hear the influences of Bob Dylan and John Lennon, as well as those of Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson and Hank Williams. But if you keep listening, one voice stands out, and it's pure Lee Bob Watson.
-- Jill Bauerle, the Union

"I feel a lot of people in my generation and younger are recycling, like everything is sort of based on your influences and knowledge of your history of pop culture. AficionadoÉ runs off that theme, where every song has a
definite reference point.... It was more of a playful approach, not trying to re-create something."

"I've been building these relationships for 10 years," Watson adds about his musical collaborators. "In the studio I was able to drop these one-word things to Todd Roper, like 'a little less Hal Blaine, a little more Jim Keltner.' And he's like 'all right' and he's on it. We just went in a recorded music -- real music."
-- Chris Macias, Sacramento Bee

ÒAlthough it might be easy to lump Lee Bob in with half a million other bindlestiff-toting crosstie walkers with a Hank Williams songbook in the guitar case and a half-pint of Cumberland varnish stripper in the back pocket, where heÕs coming from is a lot closer to Pink Moon than ÒBlue Moon of KentuckyÓ
-- Jackson Griffith, Sacto News & Review

"Let the Hate In (I Won't) É an ebullient, lo-fi Beatles rompÓ ÐS.F. Weekly

ÒLee Bob Watson finally dragged a drum machine into the room. He crooned like a super-folked-out Hank Williams and was all over the place... with his lanky anticsÓ
-- L.A. Record - The Union, SF Weekly, LA Record, Sac News & Review, Sac Bee


SYNTHESIS – CHICO

Lee Bob Watson
Aficionado

Lee Bob Watson isn’t fooling anyone with his understated, story-telling, soul-filled blues. It’s not that Watson is playing above his ability — quite the contrary. He’s more a bouquet of talent constantly teasing the listener with quick peeks of his abundant talent. He’s a five-tool musician with the chops to back it up. Nothing fancy. Get in, get out. Bam. Throughout the diverse 48-minute disc, Watson takes charge and shows his studied array of gritty, traveling highway music in the vein of Midwestern rhythm and blues via Southern delta soul. It’s a lot like a jiving Bob Dylan song alongside a Johnny Cash roustabout; Watson has the hybrid style down pat with his calm Neil Diamond-esque speak/sing smoothness. Dare we say it? Lee Bob Watson may be a true aficionado.

– Matt Kiser
- Synthesis - Chico, CA


To Be Real
Lee Bob Watson wrestles for musical truth
By Evan James
Published: August 22, 2007

The idea of a musician struggling against the tides of pop culture, summoning sounds from an earlier era of Americana to recapture a sense of authenticity, borders on the territory of cliché. The notion feels fresh, however, when Lee Bob Watson approaches the task, eschewing stylized nostalgia in favor of genre-defying music with a sharp sense of self-awareness.


"I came of age in the '90s," says Watson, speaking via cellphone from his Nevada City home. "DJ culture was prevalent, and a lot of sampling was going on. What's around me now, among my peers — musicians and artists — is a struggle to escape these feedback loops of pop culture. Everything has to be punk, or post-punk, or Beatles-esque, or Hank Williams crossed with Cyndi Lauper; everything has to have a genre and a reference point." Watson, who has played his fair share of roots music, confronts this referential instinct on his third solo album, Aficionado. "I feel like it's a critical point in our culture when we can't seem to get past that. On the one hand, I'm really reverent of the past in my music. That makes it a special challenge to throw down the gauntlet and say, "We've gotta do something new.'"

Which isn't to say that Aficionado lacks clearly defined reference points. Watson's influences emerge throughout the album: "Living in the Past," a down-home blend of country and soul, evokes both Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield, while "Highway 1 Sunset" shines with sunny, moving harmonies owing a debt to the Beach Boys. "Come on Home," on the other hand, borrows from the raw, sincere vocal delivery of Roy Orbison, and the singing is accompanied by electric guitar and heavy reverb.

While alluding to these iconic American songwriters of the '60s and '70s, Watson avoids pastiche by filtering his output through narratives that address the current cultural climate. This is exemplified by the character of Aficionado, who appears in the title track. A country gentleman who buys his Western wear in SoHo and gets taken for a bittersweet ride through the music industry, Aficionado is ultimately abandoned as a passing musical fad. He represents what Watson describes as his own "quest for authenticity in a culture based on recycled themes and sounds." Says Watson, "I like to create story lines and characters. It's a way for me to look at my relationship with what's going on around me. It's probably hedging my bets a little bit, too: A lot of my songs are about characters who'd say, "I got in the ring, yeah, that's cool — I don't need to be a superstar, I'm just doing my thing,' in a Tom Waits kind of way. I create these characters that can go out there and take the knocks."

While the story of Aficionado takes a jab at empty expertise and pop-cultural reproduction, Watson also sees him as a sympathetic guy. "An aficionado is someone who knows a lot about something. And people in this culture can become famous just for being able to spew out information about stuff they have no personal relationship to — knowing a shitload about '70s singer-songwriters, for example. They don't even have to generate their own content. But I've definitely been that person, and I've known plenty of people like that. It seems a natural thing on the one hand, but I also know people who've gotten past it and been completely comfortable in themselves. They don't have to study some style and reproduce it perfectly. They can make something original."

In his own quest for musical purity, Watson ambles toward that promised land of unfettered creativity. As a result, his best songs appropriate popular American songwriting traditions to communicate the humor, beauty, and pathos of our own time.
- SF WEEKLY


California's Lee Bob Watson is a country gentleman. He's the kind of guy that lives on slide guitar, scoffs at dance rock, and tries his damndest to make Johnny Cash proud. But on his latest album, Aficionado, Watson pairs his cowboy hat with Chuck Taylor's and adds an indie-rock flavor to his country roots.

Former Cake drummer Todd Roper and current Cake bassist Gabe Nelson back up Watson on the album, which was mostly recorded live with little or no overdubs.

On "Landfill," Watson plays with guitar feedback and criticizes the American Dream much like M. Ward or Conor Oberst's overt social commentary. "Lord I Know" opens with a drum fill straight from the Elvis Costello song "Watching the Detectives." And in his boldest attempt at hipster cred, the faux-disco drums on "Living in the Past" mix with an Elvis Presley-styled slapback vocal and palm muted guitar.
- NPR - ALL SONGS CONSIDERED


Discography

Aficionado 2007
To Juliette (From Punk Sinatra) 2004
Santa Cruz Gospel Choir: War Danzon 2004
The Sun Years 2001

Photos

Bio

Woven into every beat on Lee Bob Watson’s latest gem, Aficionado, are the tales and life lessons picked up from 12 storied years spent on the road. Reminiscent of the places he’s been—from the country infused pop of 70’s L.A. and soul-jazz of New Orleans, to the laidback roots of California’s Central Valley—Watson’s blend of sounds hearkens back to the late ‘60s and ‘70s, when genres converged and popular music created a sense of common purpose in a weary and divided nation. His sure and slightly weathered vocals—with touches of a country-gentleman drawl—combine with angelic gospel harmonies, enchanting orchestrations and tight pop arrangements to make Aficionado an album that resonates with experience and longing.

Known for his work with California rockers Jackpot, dubbed by The New York Times as “one of California’s greatest unknown bands”, as well as punk-gospel band Santa Cruz Gospel Choir, Sacramento, CA native Lee Bob Watson has been a powerful force in music for 10 years. For Aficionado, Watson enlisted former Cake drummer Todd Roper, current Cake bassist Gabe Nelson and Jackpot singer and guitarist Rusty Miller and a handful of Northern California’s finest talent. With help from esteemed producer Dana Gumbiner, the crew recorded the album in just 10 days, relying mostly on live-takes and minimal overdubs.

The songs on Aficionado grapple with the quest for authenticity in a culture that is based on recycled themes and sounds. “So much of our generation spends a lot of time rehashing the glory days of pop culture” Watson comments, “you’ve got to take your influences and let them breathe in the room.” The result is a captivating album that serves as a playground for decades of sounds to intermingle. Opener “Landfill” sends a strong statement about the land on which the American Dream was built with a twangy-rock swagger and perfectly placed steel guitar. “Living in the Past” brings electronic-disco funk to life with a back-beat that would make Bill Withers proud. Beach Boys-inspired harmonies burst alongside Watson’s velvety croon on “Highway 1 Sunset” and gentle lullaby “Rosalita’s Arms” brings the album to a sweet finish with saintly soprano choruses and dainty piano tingles.