It was Easter weekend, and most people have their family traditions. Egg hunts and religious observances have their merits — but mine is seeing a blues band at an Irish pub. It’s a bit of a challenge, but luckily this year Michael Lee was playing a joint called O’Sheas Irish Pub. Don’t judge me. It’s a holy thing.
O’Sheas is in a strip mall, but you forget that once you step inside. It’s got the typical Bennigan’s-esque dark wood everywhere, but it’s a big room with a real stage with real lights and rigging. The place serves decent bar food (the stuffed jalapeños, $8.99, were tasty). On the back side were people playing cornhole, and on the drum riser there was what looked like Sammy Boe’s drum set.
Boe is kind of a local legend, most recently playing with the Josh Weathers Band, and this night he was backing up Lee. About that time, Boe came up to me and we sat around and traded war stories about playing clubs in the ’80s (he was successful at it, and I — not so much).
In addition to Boe on drums, the band consisted of Lee (guitar, vocals), Canyon Kafer (bass) and Mike Dennis (guitar). Lee is a phenomenal blues player. Mind you, I knew that going in, since I caught his act a couple of years back at The Grotto. At that time he was borrowing Kafer from another act for bass duty, and it’s good to see them still working together. There really is a chemistry there. Lee’s playing is clean and measured, but emotive. First time I heard him play I could feel a bit of Steve Morse, and that’s there still, but his style has evolved into more Michael Lee. His solos are tasteful and not overindulgent, and his vocals are shockingly good, with a touch of B.B. King if you listen close.
Texas blues has become a bit derivative and threadbare over the past few decades. I’ve heard lots of good players who are too complacent to move the genre forward. Lee has a new CD of his own (the release show was the night before), and it is well beyond Texas bar blues. There are shades of Delbert McClinton in there, and a good bit of soul, but it’s punchier and a little harder-edged. This record is going to be in my CD changer for a while now, and if you love the blues, it should be in yours, too.