The LHI Years by Lee Hazlewood (Album)

31 May, 2012 in Music Reviews

Lee Hazlewood

A collection of buried solo treasure from a man generally better known as Duane Eddy’s producer and Nancy Sinatra’s songwriter

Lee Hazlewood: The LHI YearsSongwriter, producer and disc jockey Lee Hazlewood was better known for this work behind the scenes than in the spotlight: he produced Peter Gunn for Duane Eddy and wrote These Boots Are Made For Walking for Nancy Sinatra. In 1967, he also duetted with Ol’ Blue Eyes’ daughter on Some Velvet Morning, a song that’s since been covered by artists as diverse as Vanilla Fudge, My Dying Bride, Primal Scream and Lydia Lunch.

But Hazlewood also recorded a lot of his own material, much of which was released on his own LHI (Lee Hazlewood Industries) imprint. Here, Light In The Attic present a collection of some of the best of the LHI back catalogue, lovingly remastered from the original analogue tapes.

Country & western provides the musical backbone here, albeit a style of country that has the open-mindedness of the Woodstock generation writ large throughout, flirting variously with big band dramatics, psychedelic whimsy and blue-eyed soul. Obvious reference points would be big guns like George Jones and Johnny Cash, and more recent gravel-voiced songmen such as Stan Ridgway, Tom Waits or Nick Cave; indeed, the many duets with Ann-Margret, Nina Lizell and others show that the latter’s work with Kylie wasn’t quite the unprecedented piece of cross-genre balladry modern audience might have thought it was! The Hammond-sporting Bye Babe, meanwhile, is a standout for this reviewer, recalling the lysergic jug blues of under-rated west coast outfit Kaleidoscope (once named by Jimmy Page as his “favourite band of all time”).

Lyrically, lost loves, cold-hearted women and whisky feature strongly throughout, though Hazlewood does occasionally touch on other topics. Trouble Maker, in particular, deserves a mention: it speaks scathingly of a long-haired, sandal-wearing rabble-rouser who shuns war and wears flowers in his hair. Vietnam-era right-wing ‘hawks’ must have been cheering in approval… only to choke when the protagonist is nailed to a cross in Calgary at the end of the song.

Verdict: Expansively produced and superbly crafted, this is a piece of hitherto under-appreciated Americana that deserves a place in any discerning music lover’s collection

Out now on Light In The Attic Records.

Russell Deeks