Photo by Brooke Stevens
Gabe Lee released his sophomore record Honky Tonk Hell in March of this year, and it opens with a hell of a bang; in its explosive title track, the Nashville singer/songwriter belts out, “Punk-ass devil begone, glory Saint Mary / Hallelujah, let me be,” electric guitars blazing. Since then, a lot has changed in the world, and his latest single, “Talk to You,” reflects that in its softer, more reverent tack.
It’s a melodic, fingerpicking prayer in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Lee uses imagery of faulty wings and lost-teeth dreams to channel a sense of helplessness, humbled by powers beyond his control–highly resonant stuff, given that many of us just have to wait out the storm, and if we misstep, we run the risk of making things much worse.
Like musicians everywhere, Lee faces canceled gigs, and he’s been stuck staying home from his bar-tending day job for weeks. As he sings on the chorus, “Nothing else that I can do / but sit right here and talk to you.” Though it comes from self-isolation, it’s not a song of solitude, whether in its spiritual outlook or in Jessica Roadcap’s cozy harmony vocals. Instead, it warmly makes the case for maintaining relationships in a time of struggle.
On Honky Tonk Hell, Lee broke loose with a sound that got right down to the common root between country, gospel, and rock. Here, he flexes a folkier muscle, but his verses move with the same snappy, no-bullshit verve–in pitch-perfect sensitivity to the moment.