June 08, 2004
As I walked into the R&B Club on Bourbon Street, the rabble rouser outside said, "It's showtime!" The same man told me water was just as expensive as beer. $6.25 water? I coughed up the money and sat with an Amber in my purchased seat as Bluesman Bryan Lee began his third set of the evening. He had a 5 p.m.-10 p.m. time slot Tuesday night, and he was backed by a bassist, a drummer, and young guitarist Brent Johnson.
After I settled down from being jipped, I started to appreciate Lee and his talent. His masterful trail-blazing across a Flying V guitar came with ease. Lee had a Chicago boogie style, but to balance out his rollicking songs, Lee threw in some pensive and earthy numbers. He mixed covers with originals.
His band was tight, but the stand-out was Johnson, who scorched some earth of his own. It was nice Lee gave up some spotlight to an up-and-comer. Lee and Johnson traded rhythm and solo parts all set. Lee mentored Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and he was doing the same thing with Johnson.
Lee's vocal delivery was impressive on a slowed down version of "Hoochie Coochie Man." He dragged out every word in the main phrase, which made me believe he really was a hoochie coochie man.
The Blues emanated from Lee. He stopped a few times in the set to preach about the Blues and re-iterate that he played the Blues.
The only problem I had with the band was that at the beginning of the set they looked like a run-down Bourbon Street group. The bassist had no passion, Johnson wore a scowl, and Lee only emerged from his seat to do vocals. As the set went on, Johnson started smiling, and it became easier to enjoy the music. The bassist still had no passion, though.
Lee's been on Bourbon Street for years. He used to play at the old Absinthe Bar until they turned it into a daiquiri shop. He looked at home in the R&B club playing for tips and enticing people from the street. Lee sported a straw hat and a chin beard. I didn't find out until I left the club he wore sunglasses because he's blind. To endure on Bourbon Street and play so well—that's Bryan Lee's accomplishment.