The Black Country’s Lee Small is a name on many people’s lips at the moment after the stunning Shy album was released late last year to massive critical and public acclaim. Not only was that album a majestic tribute to the late great Steve Harris but it introduced us to the wonderful vocals of Lee. So it’s no surprise to see Lee capitalise on the sudden surge of interest in him, especially after you factor in the fact Lee has been around a long time and got very little recognition. Hopefully Lee will start to get the recognition his talents truly deserve in the near future.
Lee recorded the album with the following guest musicians, Martin Kronlund (Guitars), Imre Daun (Drums), Paul Bradder (Keyboards) Carl Anthony Wright (Guitar) and Des Sherwood (Guitar). Lee also plays bass and guitar and the album was produced by ever popular and reliable Escape man Martin Kronlund.
I was initially off put by the fact this is a concept album, I tend to avoid concept albums like the plague but admittedly it is nice to hear something which offers us something new lyrically and Lee certainly does that here. I have to admit I was excited about hearing this album but I expected it to be a pure AOR record and in the vein of SHY. So on my first play through I was initially disappointed as I was salivating for a melodic rock record.
What Lee has crafted here is a collection of classic rock tunes very much in the style and sound made famous by many bands from the Black Country like Led Zeppelin and Glenn Hughes’s Trapeze. So listening to the album with a fresh attitude and without expectations my opinion of the album drastically changed and I started to really enjoy a very strong album of retro blues rock.
The album is a nice blend of groove laden swaggering rockers (‘Jamaica Inn’, ‘Black Bess’, ‘Walk The Plank) and soulful laid back blues tunes (‘The Captain’s Quarters’, ‘Dead Man Walking’, ‘Smugglers Blues’). If you’re into your classic rock you’ll love this soulful homage to so many bands which so obviously inspire Lee’s music and style.
After the Shy album was released I kept reading people comparing Lee’s vocals to Black Country legend Glenn Hughes and to be honest I couldn’t hear it and felt maybe location was a factor in reviewer’s comparisons. On this album though I can really hear the similarities in style and sound and anyone who is a fan of Hughes is bound to enjoy Jamaica Inn.
Lee has a really likeable soulful voice which suits the style of the album perfectly and highlights his versatility as a singer as his performance on the SHY album was a master class in melodic rock singing.
The song the shines out for me, no pun intended is the soulful ballad ‘Shine A Light’. I also have to mention the cover of Boyz II Men’s ‘End Of The Road’, a slightly rocker version which sits at the end of the album. It’s an outstanding vocal performance by Lee and shows why his voice is so perfect for the Blues.
If songs full of groove, swagger, blues and soul are your thing then Jamaica Inn should be your first port of call! A strong collection of seventies inspired blues rock which is a great homage to bands of the classic rock era. I see good times ahead for Lee Small; I’m also really looking forward to catching him live at The Tackeroo in Hednesford on the 28th of July!