Forrest Lee, Sr. was a country music legend most folks have likely never heard tell of. So why should they care about a tribute to the man and his gospel music? Because his son can play a guitar. And his son has some fine picking friends. All of which adds up to one stunner of an album.
Lee, Sr. boasted a long, if not stellar, career in country music prior to his death in 2010. He toured in the ’50s with the Grand Ole Opry, and recorded both gospel and honky-tonk. Buck Owens played guitar on some of his early recordings, and his songs were covered by luminaries including Jim Reeves, Flatt and Scruggs, and more. Still, he never got that big break.
Enter Lee, Jr. The son has cut several CDs of his own, builds Forrest Custom guitars, and can pick a mean Tele. He rounded up some pals and masterminded this homage to his father.
Among Lee’s buddies on this album are guitarslingers Albert Lee, Johnny Hiland, Redd Volkaert, and John Pettifer – often all trading licks and solos on the same song.
They’re swapping those leads with pedal-steel maestro Jay Dee Maness, who played with Gram Parsons and on the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo with Ray Stevens, Vince Gill (as one of the Buckaroos), and with the Desert Rose Band. And pianists Bobby Teesdale and Joe Lamont also add in their two cents.
The result is one of the hottest country guitar albums of the year.
On Lee, Sr.’s “King Of Kings,” there’s so much twang going down, that Lee, Jr. provides a roadmap of the soloists. “John The Baptist” kicks things off righteously with wild piano and sizzling guitarwork. “Good Morning Lord” is rife with stylish chicken picking. Throughout, Lee, Jr., Albert Lee, and Pettifer all work “bender” guitars.
Gospel music’s not your thing, you say? Fear not. The best songs on this album are chock full of great picking, rollicking riffs, and hot licks. Not every song’s a winner, but some are great.
All of which makes us wonder: So if this is the gospel music, when do we get the sequel album of Lee, Sr.’s honky-tonk tunes?
This article originally appeared in VG‘s September ’14 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.