Review: Nate Lee – Wings Of A Jetliner

Here is why you should buy Nate Lee’s first full-length solo CD, Wings of a Jetliner, as soon as it is released on June 12:

This is an excellent, quite musical recording by a very talented player and singer, with great songs and solid instrumentals, all of them beautifully arranged.

Lee is an accomplished mandolinist, fiddler, banjo player and singer, with substantial credentials as a performer. Over the past 13 years he has toured widely as a sideman, mostly on fiddle and mandolin, with the likes of Alan Mundy Gazette, The Hard Road Trio, Irene Kelley, Town Mountain, Jim Hurst Trio, and, from 2017 to the present, The Becky Buller Band. In 2015 he was a recipient of an IBMA Momentum Award as an instrumentalist. He is also a well-respected teacher online, in instructional videos and at music camps.

This CD shows that Lee is first and foremost a master of mandolin styles and tones. He plays every break with precision, ease and exquisite timing. And he draws some quite beautiful sounds out of his Pava F and A style mandolins.

“Comealong Brown Dog”

An exceptional composer of tunes, Lee wrote all five of the instrumentals on this recording: “Wonderbat,” a raucous Bluegrass intro number; “Quick Select,” a comfortable and deceptively simple melody; “Rock Roller,” a pleasantly paced mandolin excursion; “Serenity,” a jazzy Grismanesque piece (with perhaps a hint of Paul Glasse thrown in); and my personal favorite, “Comealong Brown Dog,” a slow and starkly beautiful piece sparsely recorded with just mandolin, fiddle and bass.


Nate Lee is also a capable and intelligent singer who hits all the right tones in the vocal selections, as well. The best songs range from hard Bluegrass style (“Tobacco” and ”All Along”), to smooth western swing (“The More I Pour”), to folk (“Miner’s Grave”), and a few more that defy simple labeling (“Love Medicine” and “Somewhere Far Away”).

On most of the cuts, Lee is accompanied by a core band of exceptional players: The very tasteful Ned Luberecki on banjo; legendary Wyatt Rice on guitar; smooth and smart Bronwyn Keith-Hynes on fiddle; and the great and darn-near ubiquitous Todd Philips on bass. Guests adding other instrumentation or harmony singing, or a bit of both, include Thomas Cassell, Becky Buller, Dan Boner, Daniel Hardin, and Dan Salyer. The CD was masterfully produced and engineered by Dan Boner.

In an interview a couple of years ago Jim Hurst described Nate Lee as “a student of all the music that he’s heard and all the musicians that he’s been around.” Its obvious here that Lee has paid close attention to a good many fine musicians and has learned very well how to put together a quite listenable CD that blends inventive composition with excellent picking and singing.

Peach Hampton

Peach Hampton played Bluegrass mandolin in a couple of Ohio-based bands in the 1970s before settling down to more lucrative endeavors. He’s now a retired lawyer living in Western Massachusetts, back to playing more music.

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