Live Review

Tim Lee 3 / Brent Best - Hideaway (Raleigh, NC)

Tim Lee 3 on September 1, 2007

"WWLD, 'What would Larry do?'" Tim Lee asked onstage in Raleigh. "I think every songwriter who ever read him would ask themselves that." Lee was talking about Larry Brown, the late Mississippi grit-lit novelist and subject of a fine Lee-produced tribute album, Just One More (released in May on Bloodshot Records). This show was to have been a showcase for the album, with contributors trading songs and stories about Brown. But just as things seldom worked out for the characters in Brown's stories, fate intervened. Scheduled participants Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey fell ill and had to bow out, leaving Lee and Slobberbone/Drams frontman Brent Best to carry on for a small but appreciative crowd. Playing on his 37th birthday, Best opened with a 75-minute solo set that showed he's one of the best raconteur-style singer-songwriters working today. He also gave ample evidence of Brown's influence on his songwriting. A couplet from "Write Me Off" -- "I'm pretty good with endings but I don't know where to start" -- sounds like a punchline from one of the master's tales. Best sprinkled his set with plenty of anecdotes about Brown, one of Slobberbone's most ardent supporters, including the story of how he met Brown after telling an interviewer that a Brown short story inspired his song "Little Drunk Fists". Then came "Robert Cole", Best's contribution to Just One More, a song that was beautiful and unbearably sad in equal measure. If Best invoked the evening's writerly spirit, Lee's headlining set with his trio (featuring Susan Lee on bass and drummer Rodney Cash) brought back the rock. Highlights included the excellent new original "Saving Gracie"; Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl", a song all bar bands should be compelled to cover (in part because the verses are perfect for repeating over and over as necessary); another cover, the late Mississippi bluesman R.L. Burnside's "Snake Drive"; and "Just One More", which isn't on the album even though it provided the title. The Lees' contribution to the album, "The Bridge", bears more than a passing resemblance to X. Sure enough, they also threw in a cover of X's "White Girl" because, Tim said, Best told them he liked that one. When Best joined them again for a show-closing version of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door", the evening was complete.