Nashville troubadour and man of the world, self styled Mighty King of Love, Phil Lee has been touring as part of a package deal put together by Rob Ellen’s Medicine Show. With the mighty Lee in the driving seat this nod to the old fashioned package tours has featured guest stars along the way and in Glasgow this week Mary Jean Lewis, niece of the infamous Jerry was on the bill. The Gods however were unfavourable towards your Blabber’n’Smoke scribe as events crashed into one another resulting in a no go to the show. Fate smiled however when it transpired that the prospect of a gig free day so alarmed the miniature dynamo that a guerrilla attack on the quiet backwater of the Old Village in East Kilbride was hastily arranged and so it was that Blabber’n’Smoke along with around 30 others were privileged to see Lee and current sidekick Hamish Roberts in the cosy surroundings of Tintos Tapas Bar for an evening of unalloyed enjoyment as Lee sung, talked, joked, played and played with the audience.
Hamish Roberts, occasional guitarist with the Slim Panatelas opened the evening with a fine set that displayed his undoubted dexterity on guitar. Covers of Hendrix’s Wind Cries Mary, Tony Joe White’s As The Crow Flies and Steve Stills’ Treetop Flyer were well crafted while his slide work on Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out was a treat. A self penned instrumental that included some snatches of Wild Mountain Thyme recalled the work of John Martyn and was mesmerising.
Time for The Mighty King of Love to appear and Lee, dapper in appearance like a frontier medicine man a wee bit too fond of his own potions effortlessly slipped into gear from the off. Armed with guitar and harmonica he came across like a pixie Dylan or Guthrie with some wicked quips and an eye for the girls in the audience. Singing about living with a stripper or losing himself in the generous folds of flesh of Jemima James he plays up to his faded Lothario persona much to the audience’s delight with Every Time’s couplet “Every time I see you nude I want to give your number to another dude” gathering guffaws of laughter. Humour aside Lee performs these songs with a great degree of aplomb while his voice, a close relation to Dylan’s never sounds mannered or forced, in fact it sounds as if he’s having as good a time as his audience. Solo at the start Lee was joined for most of the set by Roberts who provided some sterling backup guitar despite his having to run into the street for tuning up as Lee accused him of being a perfectionist. Together they made a fine noise and away from the talking blues numbers and humorous asides Lee reminded us that he’s a great songwriter wringing pathos from Just Some Girl and whipping up a storm on the magnificent Babylon which was given an extended workout allowing Roberts to play some fine solos. For the encores Lee had some of the audience up dancing as he delved into rockabilly and then was persuaded back for a rock’n’roll medley which melded Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On and Shake Your Moneymaker. The audience lapped this up and by the end an hour and a half of Lee just didn’t seem enough.
This was an excellent opportunity to see a veteran and accomplished musician at close range. If you’re quick you can catch him at Belladrum at the weekend before he heads south for some English dates.