If Walls Could Talk – Lee MacDougall EP Review

Album Reviews, Artists, Features, Music — By on July 28, 2011 8:49 am

Never has an entire album or EP made it into my regular playlist rotation, but Lee MacDougall broke that record with If Walls Could Talk.  Not only did I gleefully add every song to every playlist, I turned up the volume every time one of the songs queued up.  This is an extended EP with ten tracks, encompassing several different styles with ease.  It’s easy to see some of his greatest influences in each tune, but no one could ever say he’s a parrot.  Lee MacDougall has a firm grasp on his own musical ideas and lyrics, and he deftly presents them here.

I can’t help but compare his voice to a frosty glass of lemonade on a hot summer day.  While there is a sharpness–a tang, there is also a smooth sweetness even through the grittiest vocals.  It’s a shock to the system when you first taste it, but refreshing nonetheless.  The focus and direction are incomparable, utterly unmatched by anyone else I’ve heard.  If pressed, I’d say he’s similar to Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits fame, but there is a new control and range.  Also impressive are the backing vocals, which must have been contributed by Lee himself or a sibling.  The harmony is full and resonant, with a specific match that doesn’t occur just anywhere.

It’s hard to choose a standout track because I just enjoy them all so much.  The Star Hotel is performed with a loosely controlled raucous flavor that brings Oasis back to mind, but don’t expect to hear Liam and Noel when you listen.  We can just thank them profusely for inspiring such a fun and enjoyable tune.  Lee really lets loose with the vocals, and when accompanied by the organ, he really captures some of the old British Invasion feel–specifically the joyous abandon we first heard with The Animals.

Just because he can let loose and power through the rock tunes doesn’t mean he can’t handle the tenderness required for ballads.  He deftly softens the tone for Stay and This Is My Story, giving us a sweet sound that still isn’t too careful.  It’s particularly fun to catch some of the witty lines in otherwise serious lyrics, too.  These elevate the songs just a step above the rest, bringing a smile for just a moment when you feel you should be contemplative.

What probably cemented the EP in my summer playlist are the two tracks that give a glimpse into London with love.  While he doesn’t necessarily glamorize the city in any way, it’s easy to see his regard for home.  Again, his voice tells the story just as well as the words do, showing us life throughout the city with London in the Summer and Sunset by the Thames.  You won’t be able to resist grabbing your passport and planning a trip to see his vision of the city.

And though I claim not to have a favorite, the truth is that two of the songs probably get twice the play as the rest of them.  She is a heartbreaking tune that features the piano as the driving percussion instrument.  While it has a quick tempo and just a hint of the old doowop feel in places, the absence of any drums still keeps the slightly subdued feel the lyrics demand.  It’s an amazing balance between the rock star inside of Lee and the words he put to the page, and as far as I’m concerned, he mastered it.

Finally, there is the fun and quirky How to Be, which is stripped down to just voice and guitar.  This is the perfect presentation for such clever and inspired lyrics.  There is no way anyone could listen to this song and not relate in some way.  Who hasn’t experienced that awkward, uncomfortable-in-my-own-skin feeling at some point in life?  And still, with that dry wit that you’ll find throughout the EP, Lee manages to make you feel okay about being just a bit weird.  Really…everybody does.

Lee MacDougall will start his North American tour on August 3 in New York City at The Bitter End.  Over the course of two months, he’ll appear in several major cities, including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Nashville.  You can check his schedule on his Facebook page or his website to see when he’ll be performing near you.  If Walls Could Talk is also available for sale on his website, so drop by to get your copy.

7 Comments

  1. KristinaLWJ says:

    Wow. Extremely well put and I agree completely. His EP has been in my rotation for several months now with no less enthusiasm from me upon hearing him. “She” was my first love but now I’d have to my favorite would be just a blanket statement of “Lee MacDougall.” So lyrically inventive. He moves the song along with an expanding story and you can’t help but follow. I am waiting anxiously for this next tour to kick off. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT miss the chance to see Lee live! Great artist, fantastic person.

  2. Nicole says:

    Howdy Jennifer Barry,

    Loved this review on Mr. Lee MacDougall!! All smiles on the frosty glass of lemonade bit, I couldn’t agree more and I’m sure Mr. LMD is getting a chuckle out of this as well. As you said, I agree all of the songs are unique and individualistic in their own rite. Yet, two of my favs of which you mentioned “The Star Hotel” ,despite the magical story lines, I agree has that edgy ’60s vibe to it that gives it zing. Then, the other song of which you hit dead on for me, actually inspired me to use my passport for the first time, “London In The Summertime”, of which will always hold a special place in my heart, got me vagabonding across Europe for the first time in my life & back again to London in all but what seemed like a summer. Yet, which was actually just 2 wks of May & another short wkend stay in June. However, I met some very interesting people and hopefully started some lifelong friendships. I am so thankful that one day Lee MacDougall got up and started learning about music, how to play the guitar, sing his little heart out & that according to what he told me once when I asked him at the first Houston,TX show “What keeps him wanting to play song after song & show after show?” He looks up at me and replies “Because I love it.” Plain & Simple . Since seeing Lee perform for the first time on March 16, 2011 (which is a personal date for me), at Houston’s Hideaway, I refuse to take If Walls Could Talk out of my CD player. It’s just that original & good! Great article, Jennifer Barry! Check Mr. Lee MacDougall’s webpage out http://www.leemacdougallmusic.com

  3. Maria in CT says:

    May I just comment that his tour starts on Thursday, August 4th (not the 3rd)? Thanks so much.

    The review is superb as is Lee’s CD! I can’t wait to see him again next week at The Bitter End. It will be my 3rd time this year seeing him (all at this venue) and urge everyone to check him out in a town near you. His tour dates can be found on his web site which is mentioned in the review.

  4. Shark says:

    A fresh and pure talent. Only a certain percentage can be swallowed by listening to his ep. The live shows capture a true artist destined for stardom.

    A wonderful friend and a modern day Ray Davies must be seen to believed

    Macca is the man

  5. Estelle says:

    Your article expressed precisely how I feel about Lee’s music. I was introduced to his music in March right before he started his first U.S. tour. After just one listen I found myself humming Star Hotel. I’ve been hooked ever since. My favorite song changes depending upon my mood. London in the summer is my current favorite. I’m anxiously awaiting his new EP and another opportunity to hear him perform live.

  6. Sheila says:

    Jennifer,

    Thank you for such a great review of Lee’s CD. You pretty much said it perfectly, “The focus and direction are incomparable, utterly unmatched by anyone else I’ve heard.” I truly enjoy Lee’s vocals and unmeasurable storytelling it just keeps me coming back for more. I’m so glad to see others feel the same way. I am very much looking forward to his upcoming tour.

  7. Maria in CT says:

    Thanks so much for the great article on Lee! Can’t wait to see him tomorrow in New York City!!!

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