May 11, 2006
When Albert Lee cuts loose with his trademark country licks—clucky lines and spanky double-stops that are often drenched with spiraling synchronized echo—notes spill from his fretboard like sawdust blowing from a chainsaw. Several cuts on Road Runner feature Lee’s blazing chops, but he generally downplays his legendary hot picking in favor of melodic solos within songs. There are moments of killer guitar playing—the tail end of “(I’m a) Road Runner” is sheer echo-sonic madness, the instrumental “Payola Blues” is packed with wall-to-wall jamming, and “Didn’t Start Livin’” is a honky tonk rave-up—but the album’s overall focus is less on fretwork and more on songs and Lee’s vocals. He doesn’t have the soulful pipes of Delbert McClinton or Travis Tritt, but he can carry a tune, and, as with Eric Johnson or Robben Ford, the serviceable singing is simply part of a package that includes fearsome picking. Pedal-steel giant Buddy Emmons adds beautiful, liquid textures throughout the album (he and Lee trade wicked eights in “Working on Love”), and Steve Fishell guests on bluesy lap steel. (Sugar Hill).