Coming right out of the gate, Gabe Lee started out his AmericanaFest showcase with this guitar cruncher “Honky Tonk Hell” before a large audience at City Winery in Nashville on Saturday night. It’s the title track from his 2020 album (our review here: REVIEW: Gabe Lee Shows off his Storytelling Skills on “Honky Tonk Hell”
Lee was a late replacement in the September 17 slot after John Fullbright’s band came down with the Covid blues. Within twenty-four hours Lee pulled together a full ensemble.
When Lee has been opening shows for bands like American Aquarium, he has also played solo. So this was an opportunity for Lee to spread his wings, and indeed he soared before the crowd.
The mood shifted to subdued guitar picking and acoustic strumming on a stroll with “Lyra (Queen of the Starlite Motel)” and ended with fiddle scratching and twangy guitar to close out the tune. “Lyra” is the first of three on the set from 2019’s Farmland. Four songs on the ten song set set were from Honky Tonk Hell.
Gabe Lee dug into “Over You” from his forthcoming album The Hometown Kid, set for an October 28 release. Unlike so many musicians in Nashville, Music City is his hometown. It is where Lee was born and raised.
A gentle and humble song rolled out next. “Talk to You” is a stripped down acoustic play. On Lee’s acoustic dominant numbers there are echoes of John Prine.
The vibe continued on “Ol’ Smokey” the second song from Farmland.
Next, Lee and the band ventured into an alt-country rollick, “Susannah.”
Piano striking stood out here on the set, which ended with a rousing electric guitar solo and drum pounding outro. Well, that produced cheers and roars from the crowd like a standing room show. As many know, City Winery has a seated table arrangement.
Trailing slide guitar, drum patter and acoustic picks began “Eveline” as the elements eased in for fuller, yet gentle expression. It’s a song about a relationship which doesn’t work. This was the third song from Farmland.
“Babylon” took on Springsteen atmospherics. It’s a co-write between Lee and Vinnie Paolizzi in Nashville. It’s about getting out of a bad place, wherever or whatever that is. The song brought big applause from the audience.
The second song from The Hometown Kid further demonstrated Lee’s versatility. “Rusty” Is a heartland rock number with pedal steel and fiddle steel staking it down in the country camp. This is the lead single from the forthcoming album and was released on September 2.
Gabe Lee rounded out his AmericanaFest show with a solo acoustic cover, “The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” – a John Prine classic.
It’s fabulous Gabe Lee had the opportunity to perform at AmericanaFest and that he capitalized on the opportunity to have a full band so that his songs took flight at City Winery.