Albert Lee coming to rock this town | TheUnion.com

Albert Lee coming to rock this town

Know & Go

WHO: Center for the Arts presents

WHAT: Albert Lee and the Homeboyz concert with Kate Taylor opening

WHERE: 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18

TICKETS: $25 members, $30 non-members. Available at the Center’s Box Office in person, by phone at 530-274-8384 ext. 14 or online at http://www.thecenterforthearts.org.

INFO: 530-274-8384, or http://www.thecenterforthearts.org

Country rock guitar virtuoso Albert Lee has a fan club that includes Emmylou Harris, Eric Clapton, the Everly Brothers, Joe Cocker, Roseanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs, Willie Nelson, Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Page and even the London Symphony Orchestra — to name just a few.

While he is a legendary lead guitar player for many of the legends of country rock, rock and rhythm & blues, Albert Lee is not a household name.

Why?

Well, "Up until last year, I didn't have my own band," Lee laughed ruefully in a telephone interview Monday from his home in Encino.

"Of course, I'm kicking myself now for not doing it before," the 70-year-old musician admitted.

Essentially, Albert Lee's been so busy for the last 50 years making other people sound good that he forgot to make himself famous.

So, to celebrate his career, Albert Lee is striking out on tour under his own name. The Center for the Arts is only advertising "Albert Lee — 70th Birthday Celebration Tour!" for his Saturday night show, but this is definitely not a one-man show.

Albert and the Homeboyz

Lee is bringing his own band. When asked what the name of his band is, he equivocated that they didn't really have a name. But then, he confided, "Internally, we call ourselves the homeboys. So I guess you could call us Albert Lee and the Homeboyz — with a 'z.'"

"We're just a four-piece — guitar, bass, drums and keyboards," Lee said. The handpicked members of his band are Will MacGregor on bass, John ("J.T.") Thomas on keyboards and Jason Smith on drums.

"We'll be doing tunes I've been doing for a little while. It's a real mixture, so I'm hoping the audience are open for anything. I play country rock, basically, but there's a bit more rock and roll in there, and there are some sort of sweet ballads," Lee said.

"I also play piano. I like to mix it up, and people are generally surprised because they expect to just hear guitar playing," Lee said. "I sing and do other stuff, too."

Local connections

This is hardly Lee's first visit to the area. His cousin, singer-songwriter Vikki Lee, is based in Northern California. Over the years, he's slipped in to play private parties and even at Cooper's Ale Works in Nevada City with Sticky Vikki and the Pinecones.

"That's a great little place there," Lee recalled.

Sticky Vikki's regular lead player at the time was Bob Woods, Nevada County's own country rock guitar hero. Woods said he found a friend and a mentor in Albert Lee.

Even before he met him, Woods had heard Lee's blazing guitar on Emmylou's "Luxury Liner" album and thought, "That's what I want to sound like."

Later, after they met, "We played in L.A., and as I sang 'The Last Train Through Moraga,' he played some lines that sent chills down my spine. I wanted to stop singing and thank him," Woods said.

"Albert Lee was a game changer for me, and I'm sure other guitar players as well," Woods added.

KVMR DJ Wesley Robertson, host of Rockin'n'Stompin' Saturday afternoons, agreed, "When Albert plays anywhere, most guitar players within 50 miles are in the room … taking notes!"

"Besides being a monster player, he is a very sweet and gentle guy," Robertson said.

It hadn't been set as of press time, but Robertson hopes to do a live "phoner" with Lee during his 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday show on KVMR community radio and http://kvmr.org.

Kate Taylor opens

Kate Taylor, singer James Taylor's younger sister, will provide a mellow country-flavored opening to Albert Lee and the Homeboyz.

Taylor is coming into her own again after a 23-year hiatus. Although she started her first band at 15 and had modest success, she dropped out and didn't return to music until she resurfaced in 2003 with her album "Beautiful Road."

"I've worked with her before on the East Coast. She's a lovely lady, and it will be good fun," Lee promised.

"I'll bring her on to sing the blues or something with us," he added.

The legend behind the legends

"Guitar Player" magazine has named the British-born Albert Lee the Best Country Guitarist five times running.

And although he has only one Grammy in his own right (Best Country Instrumental Performance), many performers are quick to credit their Grammys to Lee's inimitable guitar playing.

For instance, 12-time Grammy winner Emmylou Harris has famously said, "When Saint Peter asks me to chronicle my time down here on earth, I'll be able to say (with pride if that's allowed) that for a while I played rhythm guitar in a band with Albert Lee."

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.