For his new album Honky Tonk Hell's title track, Gabe Lee recruited a friend with his own early year hype, Marcus King, to write a blistering take on the good, the bad and the absurd elements of Nashville's Lower Broadway: A district known for the majesty of the Ryman Auditorium and Robert's Western World and the crass commercialism of party-themed monster trucks and bars named after mainstream (and male) country music stars.
"'Honky Tonk Hell' is the title track of this record because of its gloriously raucous delivery about the imbalance in the character's soul and the way it reflects in his perception of modern country as he drinks alone at the devil's dance hall bar," Lee says of the song, which debuts today via Wide Open Country. "Sometimes you have to be at the end of the rope before you realize you need saving."
Lee, the rare Nashville native in a city of transplants, brings a devotion to country, folk, bluegrass and soul to an Americana scene blessed with forward-thinking singers, songwriters and guitarists. This honest approach draws comparisons to artists from different times and of differing temperaments, from Hank Williams to Jason Isbell.
Growing up locally gave Lee a different perspective than most when he wrote this tribute to restless souls with the Marcus King Band's namesake.
"It's kind of my ode to the 'ramblin' man' aesthetic," Lee adds. "The song's speaker has been a quintessential troublemaker; dealing, gambling and ultimately finding himself in honky tonk hell. Although spoiled with pride, ego and malcontent, he finds himself liberated at the end of each mischief, when 'the good lord set [him] free.'"
Honky Tonk Hell arrives March 13: Almost a year removed from the release of Lee's debut album Farmland.
"If you heard last year's debut record, this is a whole new beast, sporting a badass Southern rock band and co-writes with (Vinnie Paolizzi) and (King)," Lee wrote in a Jan. 17 Facebook post.
Lee's string of upcoming events begin off-Broadway with a March 26 album release show at The Basement in Nashville.