Phil Lee
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Phil Lee

Band Folk Americana


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"AP: Phil Lee is "TWISTED FURY""

“Combining the social conscience of Woody Guthrie with the twisted fury of Jerry Lee Lewis.”
- The Associated Press, Jim Patterson


"Phil Lee has kicked around the alt-country scene longer than there's been one. Songs such as 'Nobody But You' are as unreconstructed as Steve Earle's best, but only about half as angry. That's pretty good for a guy who's putting out his first album, 'The Mighty King of Love' (Shanachie), at 49, after doing stuff like driving a truck. Maybe years of bottling up that talent makes it pop out with special vitality." - Playboy Magazine, by Dave Marsh


Lonesome Onry and Mean: Phil Lee's So Long, It's Been Good to Know You

"The inimitiable Phil Lee is not one of your grandma's Nashville stars. No, he's one of those barely discovered left-side-of-Nashville writers who probably doesn't even know where Music Row is. On his third solo album, So Long It's Been Good To Know You, Lee drops stunners right and left, much as he did on 1999's The Mighty King of Love and 2003's You Should Have Known Me Then.

As always with Lee, of whom Waylon Jennings once said, "that guy needs to switch to decaf," we get huge doses of Woody Guthrie-ish humanity on tracks like "25 Mexicans" and the tragic "Sonny George," about a semi driver who kills some people in an accident and can never forgive himself; this song would make Dave Dudley and Red Sovine, the kings of truck-driver songs, sit up and take notice of Lee's writing talents.

When not writing or singing his roguish songs, Lee relaxes by throwing knives.

But what Lee does best is what he's always done - write self-deprecating scenarios that point a finger at the cad in us. "Neon Tombstone" is the tale of an unrepentant rounder with an ego the size of the Grand Ole Opry, and "Where a Rat's Lips Have Touched" lays it on the line to a cheating woman. A bonus is a brilliant remake of Lee's poignant Beatle-influenced "We Cannot Be Friends Anymore." It's a love song you can't shake from your mind once you've heard it.

With Richard Bennett and George "The Tone Chaperone" Bradfute playing and producing, this one not only sounds like a million bucks - they actually probably spent $10,000 making this little record - it keeps Lee's reputation right where it belongs, at the top of the Nashville underground." - The Houston Press by, William Michael Smith


Phil Lee - So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You
(Steady Boy Records/Palookaville Records)

"Here's the thing about Phil Lee; he's got three albums out and all three are among the best albums you're likely to come across anytime soon . But experience teaches that whichever one you hear first is the one you will think is his best. That is, until the others will each in turn start to tug at your ear jostling for first place; good for him, good for you. If you don't already have the two albums on Shanachie ("The Mighty King Of Love"; "You Should have Known Me Then") just go ahead and pick up the 3 pack. Guaranteed, you'll have hours of playtime fun going to all the places a run through a Phil Lee album can take you."

So Long, It's Been Good To Know You was produced by Lee along with George Bradfute - some of the album was done at his Tone Chaparral studio in Nashville -and peerless guitarist Richard Bennett who between them have four of the best ears in Nashville. Bennett and Bradfute both play guitar and other instruments on the album and with Fats Kaplan and the rest of a bunch of high caliber players -including Phil himself on guitar and drums - flesh out Lee's Country/Folk/British Invasion influenced music. He can be witty, romantic, irreverent, incisive; usually all and more within the same song ("Lovers Everywhere") and in "Neon Tombstone" ("I met the Dalai Lama; he hit me with a hammer") he's a downright scamp. Through some kind of arcane hocus pocus he can manage to be unsentimental and poignant at the same time. "25 Mexicans" will go straight to your heart like a dart from a Jivaro blowgun. Poignant? To quote Queen Elizabeth II; "‘25 Mexicans' is poignant as a mofo." And you were wondering what she was rocking on that iPod President Obama gave her.

Standout Tracks: '25 Mexicans"; "Sonny George" - , by Rick Allen


CRITICS PICKS - Oct. 30, 2008
The Mighty King of Love

PHIL LEE, John Prine, Lucina Willians, Guy Clark -- if there's ever a Music City Mount Rushmore, save the fourth head for Lee. Could this man be the best songwriter in Nashville? Even if not, just nod, shut up and play along: The dude's an expert knife thrower. But there's not a record this decade by a Nashville artist I'e played as often or as joyfully as Lee's marvelous "You Should've Known Me Then" -- an album that would have made him a star on arrival, had its CD release party not fallen on Sept. 11, 2001. Here's your second chance: the more sober but equally rewarding "So Long, It's Been Good To Know You" (Palookaville), a collection that spans mock sea chanteys, wistful cabaret numbers and wryly rueful country-folk while single-handedly rebutting every mean thing we've ever said about Americana. - The Nashville Scene (TN), by Jim Ridley

"Vintage Guitar: "JUST LISTEN.""

Phil Lee's third album shows growth and improvement, just as his second did even after following a debut that was nothing short of outstanding (and was released on the heels of Phil's 50th birthday). Plenty of singers and players make great records at that age, but not many are just getting their careers underway.

Slow and steady apparently does win the race, because as a writer and singer, Lee makes many folks 20 years younger and 10 times more well-known look like pikers. Maybe that's because you have to have lived some to come up with the tunes he writes. Each album festures Lee's driving rhythm guitar and producer/guitarist Richard Bennett's saving graces. Drawing on everything from 'Highway 61-era' electric Dylan to mid-'60s British rock and roll, classic country, and western and rhythm and blues, Lee concocts songs that are nevertheless non-derivative and completely original, yet which have a comfortable familiarity that means his albums have no wearing-in period; listen to any of them once and they go right into regular rotation; quite an accomplishment with uncompromising songs like "25 Mexicans" in which Lee focuses a fisheye on xenophobic hysteria. He's not strident, though, musically or lyrically, but he hits the bullseye too often to call his approach "understated." Yet Lee can be touching without being maudlin, consistently engaging, and worth attention. Just listen." - Vintage Guitar, January 2009


Phil Lee - So Long It's Been Good To Know You

"Impressive set from songwriter who just wants to have fun"

"'I see lovers every place, and I just want to slap their face,'sings Phil Lee on a splendidly bitter but whimsical little piece titled 'Lovers Everywhere.' Lines like this would tend to disarm even the sternest of critics, as Lee sets out his stall as a guy who does not appear to take himself too seriously. Although largely unclassifiable in terms of style, songs such as '25 Mexicans' owe much to John Prine with that distinctly slurred and clipped delivery, with other possible reference points throughout the thirteen tracks including Loudon Wainwright, the late Skip Battin, and perhaps even Tom Waits. 'Neon Tombstone' with its rumba beat and honking sax, is just crying out for a Ry Cooder cover, 'Sonny George' seems to have bee designed for the soundtrack of a spaghetti western, but on this hugely enjoyable collection, even the less convincing songs are saved by Lee's irrepressible sense of fun and firm refusal to fall into self-obsessed singer-songwriter mode." - Maverick Magazine (UNITED KINGDOM - June 2009)


What is folk music, then? All acoustic? Traditional instruments? Traditional tunes/lyrics? Long hair/sandals/beard all compulsory? For myself I go with the notion that: 'as far as I know, it's only folks that make music'. I don't know where that quote comes from but it's lodged in my brain as a useful corrective for all those who are too precious about their genre. Anyway, if you've been watching 'Folk America' on BBC4 you'll be delighted to come across Phil Lee's record and find that he's carrying a torch for the best traditions of American folk whilst doing his best to earn a living squarely in the heart of musicbiz, usa. The picture on the inside cover says it all; resplendent in his Stetson hat Phil Lee stands on a road on the rundown edge of town, the shining towers of capitalist success in the distance behind him.

The most important thing to know about 'So Long...' is that it's one of those rare albums where every track shines, thirteen songs of varying style and consistent excellence, each with something to latch on to and relish. The title track, of course, is the old Woody Guthrie song, performed with sly good humour; there's the traditional song, Miller's Pond; love songs that are loving, bitter and blue and social commentary of the highest order. The standout track is 'Sonny George', a country ballad on a tragic theme with a big tune and glorious resonator guitar; flirting knowingly with cheesiness but falling comfortably on the right side. 'Let There Be Love Tonight', another gloriously irresistible tune, has you checking that it's not a Bob Dylan (early 70's version) song that you've overlooked. Phil Lee and his producer ( Richard Bennett 'Dire Straights' Neil Diamond' Notorious Cherry Bombs' ) know this, too, and tease you with everything from his vocal style to the organ sound. It put a big smile on my face and who cares how close to pastiche it is? Dylan's done it to enough people, after all. In fact, there's references all over this album to musical heroes, including a Phil Lee as Tom Petty photo on the back cover, and I love it all, it's done with such affection and panache. Playing and production is shared amongst a bunch of familiar Nashville Good Guys, George Bradfute to the fore. The relaxed, joyful playing is recognisable from the work of Paul Burch and the WPA Ballclub. Paul Burch is a guest player on this record but George Bradfute seems to be the major common factor, so three cheers for George with Mr Bennett providing Guitars of course.

I can't really recommend 'So Long...' highly enough. It sounds like an old friend when you first put it on and as time goes on, it just becomes an even better loved old friend.

John Davy -, by John Davy (Feb. 2009)


"Nashville-based Phil Lee is as reverent as an upraised middle finger and he delivers American roots music with dollops of grit, groove and sleaze. The trick here isn't merely that Lee writes and sings songs of uncommon humor and depth of feeling, it's that he finds the pinprick humanity in his subjects. '25 Mexicans' isn't about immigraion, it's about longing: 'Oh mama, leave the candles burn.' 'Sonny George' isn't about a highway accident, it's about conscience. And 'Let There Be Love, Tonight' isn't about bedroom role-playing (well, OK, it sort of is), it's about wonder and grace: 'You are young and pretty, Me, I'm old and gray / I like the way you don't let any of that get in the way.' Lee remains an artful instigator of the highest order." - The Tennessean (Jan. 2009)

"Country Music Magazine: "AN UNFLINCHING LOOK""

"Irreverent, ragged and beautiful in it's simplicity, 'You Should've Known Me Then' offers an unflinching look at life's lovable rascals and not so beautiful losers." - Country Music Magazine, by Alanna Nash (Feb. 2002)


"SO LONG, IT'S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YOU" - Palookaville/SteadyBoy Records (2009)

"YOU SHOULD'VE KNOWN ME THEN" - Shanachie Records (2001)

"THE MIGHTY KING OF LOVE" - Shanachie Records (1991)



Phil Lee grew up in Durham, North Carolina, in the shadow of tobacco warehouses and Duke University. A musician and songwriter from his teens, Lee's first professional gig came in the 1960s, playing drums for Homer Briarhopper and the Daybreak Gang on a morning television show in Raleigh, NC.

Lee wandered off to New York City in 1971, where he found work behind the drums for Amazing Grace, an outfit that included Beverly D'Angelo, Rob Stoner and Hank DeVito. Lee then moved to Los Angeles, where he did some movie soundtrack work with Jack Nitzsche and did some truck driving for Neil Young.

After a brief stint with The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1993, Lee moved to Nashville. He began work with producer Richard Bennett on the honky tonk country music project that would become his first solo album, The Mighty King of Love (2000), released by Shanachie Records. The label released You Should’ve Known Me Then in 2001.

Lee's music is the distillation of about 30 years' worth of playing in juke joints and bars from one end of the country to the other. His songwriting is uncommonly witty and as direct as a kick in the butt. The years he has spent sitting at the back of the bandstand, behind the drums, have given him plenty of time to think about what he'd do if he ever got to the front of the stage. Now that he's there, he's not wasting anyone's time with lame material.

(Adaptation from Philip Van Vleck,

The new album, So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You was again produced by Richard Bennett and features many of Nashville’s finest including Duane Jarvis, Dave Roe, Ken Coomer, Eric Holt, Webb Wilder, Tom Mason, Bill Lloyd, Steve Allen, Kathy Chiavola, Paul Burch and others.

> NEW album - First in 8 Years - "So Long, It's Been Good To Know You" - released in the US on SteadyBoy Records & Proper Distribution in June 2009.

> #1 on December 2008 EuroAmericana Chart for his new "So Long, It's Been Good
To Know You" album.

> TWO Shanachie Records albums released ("The Mighty King of Love"-1991 & "You Should Have Known Me Then" - 2001) to National & international critical acclaim from folks like Dave Marsh (Playboy/Sirius), Nick Cristiano (Knight-Ridder), Jim Patterson (AP), Robert K. Oermann and others.

> In addition to music, Phil is known to drive a Big Rig. While he's playing music, he's known to share some knife-throwing tricks.

You can learn more about Phil online at:

You can hear plenty of Phil's songs here:

Band Members