Phil Lee & the Sly Dogs, "A Night In the Box"
The inimitiable Phil Lee is not one of your grandma's Nashville stars. No, he's one of those barely discovered left-side-of-Nashville writers who probably doesn't even know where Music Row is. On his third solo album, So Long It's Been Good To Know You, Lee drops stunners right and left, much as he did on 1999's The Mighty King of Love and 2003's You Should Have Known Me Then.
As always with Lee, of whom Waylon Jennings once said, "that guy needs to switch to decaf," we get huge doses of Woody Guthrie-ish humanity on tracks like "25 Mexicans" and the tragic "Sonny George," about a semi driver who kills some people in an accident and can never forgive himself; this song would make Dave Dudley and Red Sovine, the kings of truck-driver songs, sit up and take notice of Lee's writing talents.
When not writing or singing his roguish songs, Lee relaxes by throwing knives.
But what Lee does best is what he's always done - write self-deprecating scenarios that point a finger at the cad in us. "Neon Tombstone" is the tale of an unrepentant rounder with an ego the size of the Grand Ole Opry, and "Where a Rat's Lips Have Touched" lays it on the line to a cheating woman. A bonus is a brilliant remake of Lee's poignant Beatle-influenced "We Cannot Be Friends Anymore." It's a love song you can't shake from your mind once you've heard it.
With Richard Bennett and George "The Tone Chaperone" Bradfute playing and producing, this one not only sounds like a million bucks - they actually probably spent $10,000 making this little record - it keeps Lee's reputation right where it belongs, at the top of the Nashville underground. - William Michael Smith