Album Reviews

Frankie Lee

American Dreamer

Artist:     Frankie Lee

Album:     American Dreamer

Label:     Loose/ Thirty Tigers

Release Date:     07/08/2016


How does a relatively unknown singer-songwriter sign with Sturgill Simpson’s label and strike a deal with Thirty Tigers for his debut?  These ingredients: strong lyrics, melodic songs and a soothing voice reminiscent of the early Eagles.  A Midwesterner by birth, Lee has lived a nomadic existence that has taken him to Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, the deep South, and Los Angeles.   After a decade away, he returned home to his family in Minnesota and spent time working alone on a pig farm and living in St. Paul. The songs were written during early morning commutes. Playing guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, harmonica, as well as self-producing the album, Lee worked with drummer JT Bates to assemble a number of the city’s musicians to join him on the album.   Most of the songs were cut live on the first night and appeared on his locally released EP, Middle West.

While it is an auspicious debut punctuated with several strong songs, too many others have the same sound and tempo.  The high point of the album is the single, “Where Do We Belong,” which has steady, rock guitar riffs with some country accents too. “Buffalo” is a bit darker and brings in some bluesy elements. Banjo and fiddle are highlighted on “High and Dry,” which is apparently not about pot but farmers growing their own food. “East Side Blues” is the first song Lee ever recorded and is filled with a sense of loneliness.  Lee says that it is, “an ode to the capitalist investors and developers who’ve destroyed every side of town and built shit that won’t last.” Because Lee has a pleasant high tenor voice, you’re not likely to shy away from the other tunes. But, unfortunately they are just not as compelling.  Nonetheless, Lee’s obvious musical talents and wanderlust serve him well here and will likely do so going forward.

– Jim Hynes

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