If a panel of lovers of so-named Southern pop was assembled to describe the music of Tim Lee in five words--LP shelves moaning under the weight of Stands for Decibels, Cypress, The Deep End and Terminal--consensus would go something like "catchy and literate guitar rock."
However, these Mitch Easter-philes would be lobbying to add "rugged" or "muscular," too, as if talking about a big-engine pickup or a pre-crackdown home-run hitter.
"I just like to play rock 'n' roll," Lee offers when presented with the above. "I know that the current trend among singer-songwriters is to play as quietly as possible, but I'm just not interested in that. I'm a fair acoustic guitar player, but I just don't enjoy that the way I do plugging into an amp and playing with bass and drums."
Lee's been plugging in since the early '80s, when he formed the Windbreakers with fellow songwriting, guitar-playing Mississippian Bobby Sutliff. The pair hung out on power pop's rustic fringes, swapping writing credits and--willingly or not--serving as Southern pop beacons. Two EPs gave way to the career-defining Terminal, followed by more recordings, temporary breakups, solo records, reunion albums and side projects.
In the '90s, a burned-out Lee stopped making music for a while, but the last few years have seen him back with a vengeance by release three terrific records. His latest, the varied thumping, and always tuneful Concrete Dog, is arguably his best yet. The album's centerpiece is "Get Up, Get Up," its inhabitants barely one step ahead of flood waters and its sound straight from the Rockpile/Georgia Satellites school of chunka-chunka guitar.
"I'm three different things," explains Lee, addressing both his and Concrete Dog's multiple personalities. "I'm a singer-songwriter, but I don't like playing acoustic, and I don't have a thrift-store suit. I'm a power pop guy--more by history than anything, I guess. And I'm a guitar player who grew up playing Thin Lizzy covers."
Tim Lee and his band, featuring his wife Susan on bass and ex-Superdrag drummer Don Coffey Jr., play the Shakori Hills Moonlight, Music & Dance series on Friday, Aug. 4. The music starts at 7:30 p.m. Be generous when the pith helmet is passed. For complete details, see www.shakorihills.org/music_series.