Total Lee! The Songs of Lee Hazlewood
Although best known as a collaborator with Nancy Sinatra in the 1960s (he wrote “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"), it was Lee Hazlewood’s foray into atmosphere-heavy, quasi-psychedelic country on solo albums like Cowboy in Sweden (1970) that presaged hipster, alt-country today and helped earn him a cult following 30 years later.
This tribute album features covers of the oddball genius’ eclectic songwriting performed with mixed results by talented indie-rock artists such as Lambchop, Calexico featuring Valerie Luelliot (who add Mexican horns and an electronic vibe to the trippy “Sundown, Sundown"), Tindersticks and Johnny Dowd (a rousing version of “Sleep in the Grass").
Most of the artists give interesting readings of the songs, unfolding rich layers in orchestral pop music ahead of its time. This is a fittingly experimental tribute to a legendary, wandering man originally interested in experimental production some 50 years ago; a guy who not only influenced Phil Spector, but did things like take Duane Eddy into an empty grain silo and create his echoish, twangy ("Peter Gunn") guitar sound.
The guy is only now, when he’s in his 70s, getting his due. (He just performed for a large European festival crowd, to whom he directed the question, "Where were ya when I needed ya?" Someone yelled back, "We weren’t born yet.") The liner notes contain Hazlewood’s own initial reactions to the covers, which range from oddly reflective to downright funny.