A relativity low key release by Lee in early 2011. The Cover Sessions EP began life entitled The Midnight Radio and marked Lee’s recordings of a series of the songs he grew up with on the radio on Long Island, New York. There are six tracks on the EP and Lee plays most of the stringed instruments on the recordings. He claims that the recordings are neither rockabilly nor country but fall somewhere in between.
As you’d imagine, the bass dominates throughout the EP and Lee is slapping away with the abandon we’ve come to expect from the bass player for the greatest rockabilly band in the world! The feel of the EP is certainly very different to previous material, such as Black Cat Bone. I would say it’s closer to country than it is to rockabilly in feel and this may not be to the taste of all. As the press for the album indicates, most of the instrumentation is acoustic and apparently much comes from Lee’s collection of stringed instruments he has gathered across his career.
Come Together – The only track that I’m confident that I knew before hearing the EP, being a cover of The Beatles’ track from Abbey Road. The track kicks off with a new bass riff from Lee and some rockabilly style picking in the background. Lee’s vocals then kick in a sort of breathless, half-whispered style. From the second verse different instruments kick in, harmonica supports and then banjo plays a solo. An interesting rockabilly take on a famous track and one Lee takes well and makes his own.
Drivin’ My Life Away – A track originally laid down by Eddie Rabbitt (I believe!). Perhaps the most of the hybrid rockabilly/ country crossovers here. The backing rhythm has certainly been rocked up but the laying down of the banjo over the top keeps the country feel very much present. The vocals are strong and have been double-tracked for the chorus.
Honkey Cat – Originally written and recorded by Elton John, the mix is familiar here with the banjo covering a rocked up rhythm, dominated by Lee’s slapping bass, covered by a banjo over the top. At this point special mention has to be given to Rocker’s vocals which are strong throughout the EP and a highlight of all the tracks on the EP. An acoustic guitar solo features here.
City of New Orleans – This is an interesting track with a strong American Folk feel to it, having been a hit for Arlo Guthrie. Lee keeps true to that feel on the cover where an acoustic guitar dominates the rhythm, placing the track somewhere between folk and country. This is a personal highlight on the album, I find the lyrics very expressive and the performance strong.
Ramblin Man – The most country of the tracks on The Cover Sessions, a cover based on the recording of The Allman Brothers Band. Lee’s cover perhaps is more country than the original, having banjo, slide guitar and washboard featuring strongly throughout. An interesting foil to his strongly rockabillyed cover of Hank Williams’ Lost Highway on Black Cat Bone.
Come Dancing – A spainish/ Mexican flavoured rendition of The Kinks’ track from the early 1980’s – when Lee was in full swing with Stray Cats. With the style mentioned above, this an interesting cover and I must say that I do prefer Lee’s vocal rendition to the original. This is the only track on the EP where the electric guitar features prominently, whether this is Lee, Spaaz or Bruce Campbell I wouldn’t like to say. An interesting cover and gives the EP a reflective finish about what has been lost since times past. I would hazard a guess that many of the Stray Cats’ early haunts are no more.
Overall this is an interesting EP in what feels new musical territory for Lee Rocker’s recordings. The musicianship is strong on all the tracks and goes to show Lee’s immense musical talent on all stringed instruments. However, on a truly personal note, the style of the EP isn’t really for me and I think I am looking forward more to the rockabilly album promised for May this year. The album is a good vehicle for Lee’s talents on a variety of instruments.
Lee Rocker – The Cover Sessions 6/ 10