Rick Lee
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Rick Lee


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"Towering over this exceptional collection is "Natick""

Most recently received review from Folk on Tap (UK), Issue 71, Spring, 1997:

"Rick's rich voice and banjo playing conjures up vivid memories of Derrol
Adams in this listener (which is no bad thing). Towering over this
exceptional collection is 'Natick,' his most famous song that's an
elegant, bittersweet observation on the struggle of Boston's Indians who
were forcibly removed from Natick and interned on Deer Island by the
colonial government in 1675. This CD is quite possibly the pick of
Waterbug's quite delightful bunch!" -- Geoff Wall
- Folk on Tap (UK)

"plays the banjo like the devil"

A new review of "Natick" by Stavros Moschopoulos in
FAO CASA Gazette/ April, 1997 Issue /magazine of the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy:

"Rick Lee - This guy looks like a ol' sailor from a whaling ship,
plays the banjo like the devil and unfolds mesmerizing stories in a crisp voice that
reminds you of Johnny Cash. His CD, Natick, is full of traditional folk
stories that are involving, enchanting and humanly real (in an FAO-related
twist, his song "The Harvest" speaks of the personal effects of the drought...)

"A MAGNIFICENT CD from one of the few TRUE folk artists around who still
tell stories and make music that speaks to the heart."
- FAO CASA Gazette

"The song is truly epic"

Joe DeRouen wrote this next review for
Fast Folk Magazine:

As the title track of Rick Lee's new album NATICK (from Waterbug)
explains, "Natick was a language, Natick is a town. No one speaks the
language, all of them are gone..."

Natick tells the sad story of the Native Americans displaced by the
English and eventually interred on Deer Island in Boston Harbour, where
they eventually died out, taking the Natick language with them.

Lee's song is at once sad and touching, a history lesson that none of us
should ever forget. His voice reverberates through the music as he
sings about the fate of the natives, emotionally charges and stirring.

Not all of NATICK is as serious as the title song, but it's all just as
well done. Lee's album is filled with traditional and contemporary
ballads, both Irish and American in origin. "The High Part of Town" is
a clever rhyming ballad about life in a small village in England. It's
funny and entertaining, and the lyrics will stay with you long after
you've listened to it.

"The Tinkerman's Daughter" is the true jewel of Lee's album, a retelling
of an 11 verse poem about a farmer who steals a tinker's daughter and
what befalls him and all the players involved. The song is truly epic,
bringing to mind classic Irish and Celtic tales and songs.

Other highlights include a cover of Merle Haggard's "I Made the Prison
Band", the 17th century ballad "Lady Margaret", and "Strangers", a
touching juxtaposition of strangers exchanging points of view.

"Tam Lin", the last song on the album, is probably my favorite. It's
the story of Thomas the Rhymer and his encounter with the folk of
Faerie. As Lee's liner notes explain, it's an excellent instruction on
how to rescue someone from enchantment. Lee's rich, deep voice lends
itself particulary well to this song, making it stand out from all the
others on the album.

NATICK is a solid album, without even a single lacking track. If you
enjoy traditional ballads and good acoustic discs, you'll want to add
this one to your collection.

Copyright (c) 1995 by Joe DeRouen, Addison, Texas

- Fast Folk Magazine

"Bob Franke's review"

On the internet, in the June 21, 1995 Folk_Music Digest, Bob Franke
wrote this generous note reviewing a pre-release copy of "Natick:"

Rick Lee is living proof of the link between good songwriting and
traditional music. Rick's love and deep knowledge of traditional music
informs both his own songwriting and his choice of other contemporary
songs. There's only one Rick Lee original on the disc (the title song) and
one collaboration with Holly Gettings; "Natick" is the compelling story of
a local history of one man's idealism set against his people's penchant
for genocide, and "Strangers", the collaboration, explores the links
between personal alienation, lack of community, and homelessness.
Meanwhile, the strong imagery and /or storytelling value of other
contemporary and traditional songs here are a veritable primer of what
*works* in a song, whether traditional or contemporary, folk or country.
Writers represented include Chuck
Hall, Andy and Lauren May,
Jez Lowe, and Tommy Collins. There's lots of humor and lots of drama in
this release, all connected with a sense of timelessness: musically
there's everything from traditional banjo to spaced-out keyboard.

- Folk_Music Digest

"Rich Warren's review"

Sing Out! http://www.singout.org/, Vol 43 No. 4 Summer 1999


There's Talk About A Fence

Waterbug 47

Alhough Rick Lee can pen a good original song or tune, and does so on this CD, most of the 13 songs are Lee's interpretations of songs by others or tradi- tional songs.

This is a man who has lived. His voice, rich with experience, knows its way around a song. Thus, on Chuck Brodsky's excellent "The Come Heres And The Been Heres," (a line from which Lee takes the title of his CD) Lee can sing it as a "Been Here."

Lee divines uncliched songs fresh to the ear. When he chooses a traditional ballad, like his arrangement of "Dives And Lazarus" (Child 56), it's one that hasn't been done to death. Similarly, the songwriters he chooses, such as Andy May, Jerry Bryant, Bob Stuart, Lauren LeCroy May and Sigerson Clifford are not common names on the songwriter circuit. He even explored the Tennessee Folklore Society via Richard Blaustein for the chill- ingly true American traditional song "Lu- natic Asylum." "The Ballad Of Harbo And Samuelson" by Bryant commemorates a pair of adventurers that crossed the Atlan- tic in an 18-foot boat well over a hundred years ago. "Rainbow's End" is a charm- ing, pop love song. Lauren May's "Don't Say Goodnight" an erstwhile lounge song varies the mood. Lee returns to the com- plete text of "The Ballad Of The Tinker's Daughter," a 7-minute epic in its original arrangement. He had performed a trun- cated version of this tale of death in child- birth, murder, suicide, and ghostly revenant on an earlier recording.

Andy May produced the CD in perfect sync with Lee, a mostly old-timey sound, highlight- ing Lee's ability on banjo and keyboards, and May's own talent on guitars and man- dolin, or Lee on solo piano/keyboards. There are a few instrumentals where they let loose with the picking and keyboards. Lee provides contact information (includ- ing e-mail addresses) in the CD booklet for virtually every song on this recording. Lee closes with the inanely funny "Don't Pet The Dog," but the true closing song is the one that proceeds it, one of his few origi- nals "The Best We Can Do." In the mold of the best of Pete Seeger and Si Kahn, it's a simple and wonderful thought to treasure.

This CD is a folk music lover's delight filled with honest music explored by a wise singer. - RWarr

- Sing Out!

"Bruce Baker's review"

Dirty Linen, http://www.dirtylinen.com, Folk & World Music #83 - August/September '99, p. 64

Rick Lee There's Talk About a Fence Waterbug WBG 0047 (1999)

Rick Lee is a folksinger in the old vein, one who is more interested in singing a good song than becoming absorbed in narcissism that envelops many a singer/songwriter. Lee does write songs, of course, good ones like "The Best We Can Do" or the two instrumentals here, but his talent seems to be bringing to life and bringing to light fine songs by others that the listener may or may not have run across.

Rooted in a respect for tradition, Lee gives us fine renditions of "Dives and Lazarus" and "Daemon Lover." Drawing from more recent contributions to tradition he sings the full version of Tim Dennehy's setting of "The Ballad of the Tinker's Daughter." Lee also sings the harrowing "Lunatic Asylum," composed by some anonymous patient in a turn-of-the-century asylum in Tennessee.

The other songs here are equally good, not a bad one among them, but my two favorites are Chuck Brodsky's recent portrait of small-town conflict, "The Come Heres and the Been Heres" and Jerry Bryant's "The Ballad of Harbo and Samuelsen," the story of two Norwegian immigrants and their heroic row across the Atlantic.

All these good songs would be for naught if Lee were not such a fine singer. His voice fills a room, a full, warm voice a bit like Si Kahn's, with resonance and not a lot of unnecessary ornamentation. His arrangements are nicely varied and appropriate to the songs. --Bruce E. Baker (Goose Creek, SC)
- Dirty Linen

"voice that is warm enough to fry eggs on"

Rick Lee: “Look What Thoughts Will Do”

Label: Swift River Music (SRMCD101); 2005; Playing time: 55.38 min

Here is a man with a voice that is warm enough to fry eggs on. This is also a guy who has lived more than a bit, and is now approaching the veteran stage.

Now, I ask you to put these two facts together. And this is what you will get: an immensely pleasurable album that exudes a sort of folksy wisdom. Note I said “folksy wisdom” [good], not “folksy whimsy” [bad].

Above all, I like his eclecticism. Judging from this CD, nearest to his heart seems to be the traditional ballad from the British Isles. But hot on its heels comes a love of country artists like Lefty Frizzell and the Louvin Brothers; relatively recently deceased folk icons like Richard Fariña and Kate Wolf, and ace contemporary songwriter Bill “Country Roads” Danoff (here represented with a fine song of his – co-written with autoharp virtuoso Bryan Bowers).

The Lee voice has a very special DNA. I guess if some boffin could cross the voice of Johnny Cash with Burl Ives, then Rick Lee would be the result. And this great voice is backed by some consummate musicianship.

If I had to pick out one musician then it would have to be Hal Rugg on dobro and pedal steel. His work on the best track on the album (Kate Wolf’s “Sweet Love”) is nothing short of sublime.

An album I intend to keep and play. And not send to the charity shop.

Homepage of the artist: http://ricklee.org, contact to artist: ricklee@pobox.com, contact to label: office@swiftrivermusic.com Dai Woosnam

- Folk World (Germany), January, 2006

"always holds your interest in the story he's telling"

Rick Lee - Look What Thoughts Will Do - SRM CD-111

Whether your musical preference is for Country, Contemporary Folk or Traditional Ballads, you are going to enjoy this CD.

Rick Lee can't be pigeonholed. He has a wide ranging repertoire which reflects his insatiable appetite for searching out interesting but little known songs and tunes, and different versions of well know songs. He is also a fine, well respected songwriter, and a good example of his work, Thanksgiving, can be heard on track 13. There's not a weak track on this CD. It is well recorded, the backings consummately tasteful and never intrusive.

From the opening notes of the John Jacob Niles version of The Lady and the Gypsy (which may cause a few academic eyebrows to twitch) to the final track, How High Did You Go?, your attention is held. The common factor is Rick's mellow, articulate voice which always holds your interest in the story he's telling. Add to this the excellent musicianship displayed by Rick on keyboard and banjo, and his choice of superb backing musicians and the result is a very fine CD.

Tom Spiers
- Living Tradition Magazine (September/October, 2005)

"experience informs the authority of the performances"

RICK LEE, Look What Thoughts Will Do, (Swift River 111).

This is a varied collection of traditional ballads, classic country songs and some contemporary material in tasteful arrangements centered on Lee's expressive baritone voice and banjo or keyboard playing.

Although these are new recordings, many of these are songs that Rick has been singing for many years and that experience informs the authority of the performances. --MR
- SingOut! Vol. 49 #3 Fall 2005


Natick, Waterbug/Swift River, 1995/2004
There's Talk About A Fence, Waterbug, 1999
Scuttlebutt, Tall Ships, Soundside, 2000
Look What Thoughts Will Do, Swift River, 2005



Rick Lee is a Massachusetts-based old-time banjo and piano player, singer and songwriter whose family roots are deep in Tennessee. He has been a part of the New England music scene for more than forty years. His Tennessee-born grandfather was a singer with a repertoire from the mountains of eastern Tennessee, and Rick's early work included southern mountain, and Scots and Irish ballads and tunes.

Through the years, Rick has become known for his dedication to finding wonderful songs from diverse sources and bringing them together seamlessly to form a rich tapestry of varying moods, colors and textures in his live shows and his recordings. His material ranges from songs that are of another time to songs that speak of the idiosyncrasies and beauty of modern life, from the profound to the comical, and includes a sprinkling of his signature banjo instrumentals. His love of the song shows through not only in his treatment of the songs he performs, but in the marvelous, in-depth liner notes he provides with each recording. These notes allow the listener to reach a deeper level of understanding and appreciation of the evolution and history behind the traditional songs Rick records, as well as to get a glimpse into what makes songwriters tick.