Gary Lee and The Cat Daddys

Gary Lee and The Cat Daddys
Live on a Flatbed

self published

By Tony Del Rey
May 2011

Around and around and around he goes. When he’ll stop, nobody knows.

That’s Gary Lee, guitar equivalent to the Energizer Bunny whose objective is to go like a hot battery with his incessant soloing. Not just solos but whole 32-bar ragas patterned on well-trodden blues licks and pentatonic curly-cues that the man breaks off only grudgingly. Can’t help but wonder if it’s a nearby stagehand who gives Lee a shove toward the microphone to remind him of his ancillary duties as chief holler for the band he fronts called the Cat Daddy’s.

When the solo stops, find a seat and sit down.

It's a fine line between what some might consider good old-fashioned entertainment and what others may dismiss as mere self-indulgence. I don’t believe there to be any such debate with the band's most recent release, Live on a Flatbed. To my ear, the desired effect of the entire presentation is to showcase Gary Lee’s chops and nothing more.

The material is a ramshackle collection of covers and originals, all bearing monosyllabic working titles like, “Shake,” “Swamp,” “Roll,” “Stoned” and “Broom.” All are given the same lard-heavy I-IV-V Blues treatment and sound barely discernible from one another. In general, I find little, if any, evidence of thought given to arrangement or crafting of songs on Flatbed.

It’s ironic then that the one rare exception occurs when the keyboard player gets his chance to shine on a juke joint holler titled, “Pain.” This track is easily the most polished thing going on the album, and comes as a much-welcomed break from Lee’s relentless ammo attack.

It seems to me that the purpose of featuring an instrument at all is to articulate the song's basic melody. In the case of the guitar, its ability to bend and sustain notes renders it the perfect vehicle with which to express emotion, its extended fret board capable of soaring to heights unattainable to the human voice. On Flatbed, the concept of guitar and vocal acting in concert is turned on its head: melody is relegated to mere formality, while the instrumentation serves as both message and medium.

So around and around and around he goes. No rest for the weary in Gary Lee's game of musical chairs. The only hope of finding a seat is to wait for his batteries to run out.

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