Pygmalion Fest 2016
With my early trepidation about the rain, I bustled around early on, and didn't catch an act in full until Cody Lee. Lee is old school in the best way, and he brought his unique brand of rock and roll to The Accord to help usher in the evening indoors. His sound has a bit of Elvis Costello mixed with the Stones, and some plantive folkiness added in. His guitar work was masterful and great to see.
Smile Politely Ms. Julia McAnly
Songs for Damaged Hearts
Cody Lee is a reflective romantic, a singer/songwriter who makes no apologies for wearing his heart on his sleeve. He is a rare breed. In this age of backing tracks, electronic mumbo jumbo and auto tune, Lee has chosen to forge his own path, armed with only his voice, his guitar and his talent to write a good song. His efforts and those of the few like him should be heralded; for they hold the ability to introduce music once again to hungry ears in a barren industry.
With this, his second solo album, Lee has reached a new level in his development as a songwriter and storyteller. The lyrics are so masterfully crafted that you can’t help but think that many of the songs must be autobiographical. And whether or not they are doesn’t matter, what does matter is that he’s so adept at his craft that he easily brings you into the world he wants you to experience. The adventure is his to direct and he does so with focus, wit and a couple of appropriate covers, both of which are done “Cody’s way” and support the flow of ‘Songs for Damaged Hearts.’ That’s true talent, my friend. And, he’s able to accomplish all of this without sounding like the stereotypical acoustic balladeer. Lee has a unique sound and approach that sets him apart and begs notice. And surely that comes from his long tenure slugging it out in bands from New York to the Midwest.
You see, Cody Lee is no stranger to the stage or the studio. He cut his teeth in the CBGB’s/Max’s Kansas City era of New York’s glam/punk scene. He’s shared a stage with The Kinks and played bass in The Dictators. This guy has street cred out the wazoo. As the years passed he found himself in Champaign, Illinois, the indie rock mecca, and, for nearly two decades, he fronted a blues rock band before breaking off and going acoustic. One might say he’s devolved…but they would be wrong. In reality it’s been his search for purity that has led him to strip away the accoutrements and the trappings and embark on a journey that benefits us all.
Paul Barrel - innocentwords.com
Review: “Songs For Damaged Hearts” by Cody Lee
“Songs For Damaged Hearts” is a perfect title for this compelling solo acoustic set of confessional ballads, performed live in the studio with only a handful of overdubs. The gently swinging guitar playing provides a vivid contrast to the subject matter of the lyrics, which explore the singer’s complex behavior in his relationships with women, or possibly with just one woman over a period of time. Yet, every lyric is written in the present tense. The ambiguity is fascinating.
Here are some impressions of each song, and its position in the album’s sequence.
The album opens with some lightly rhythmic and immediately engaging strumming, with a sweetly loping overdubbed guitar line. Then it really opens: “I was a drifter, I was a bounder, I was a waste of your time.” And more: “I was a no good lover of women, filled with malice and pride.” And then an even deeper reveal: “Somewhere in the back of my mind, you could hear me cryin’, holier love than I’ve ever known, equal to the glory of Rome.”
The roles reverse. After imploring a lover to tell him what’s bothering her, he asks if someone told her something that didn’t turn out true and “broke your heart in 75 places.”
Against a shuffling minor key chord sequence, he doubles down. “I’m here, no matter what you say, I’m not running away, I’m here, I’m never gonna change, I’m not goin’ away.” But who is he addressing and under what circumstances?
He dispenses with the wildly impassioned original approach of David Bowie’s great song about a doomed love affair. With just a vocal and an acoustic guitar, he flips the script. In a low soft voice, he puts the vulnerability of the couple’s illicit romance ahead of the crazy passion that unites them.
It’s Just Raining:
Jazzy rolling minor key chords act as an undertow against the seemingly upbeat lyric. “I know some people need everything and some don’t have enough, I don’t know how much more I need, I’m fine with just your love.”
This is the album’s most accomplished and challenging song. The chord sequence is highly unusual, alternating between major and minor keys, and also between rock and jazz harmonics: “No words, no sounds, hold me in your arms forever, tell me this isn’t better than anything we have, anything we had, anything we wanted to do.” It ends on an unexpected dissonant chord, repeated five times, played emphatically and with powerful effect. Darkness descends.
Something To Believe In:
His declaration of romantic idealism, complete with a lovely and graceful guitar solo. Despite the damage he’s done to others, and the damage that’s been done to him, he still wants “the magic.”
You Say It’s Over:
The song begins with a simple and endearing major key guitar figure, but as soon as he starts to sing, it’s clear that he’s on the receiving end of the pain. Even though he restrains his emotion vocally, another unexpected dissonance―an augmented note―pops up twice during both the guitar solo and the last verse of the song, leaving the impression that the end of this relationship is twisting him more than he’ll say in words. But then the narrative shifts again, into the album’s quietly uplifting three-song conclusion.
“Lovin’ you is good, lovin’ you is grand.” He tosses negativity aside. No dissonances, no reveals, no reversals.
In this tender and touching reading of the Big Star classic, one of rock and roll’s best songs about innocence and adolescence, he fondly recalls his early teenage years.
Mary On A Fall Day:
The album closes with a gorgeously wistful and hauntingly enigmatic instrumental. Is he looking back on a wondrous love from long ago, or paying tribute to the love of his life, now in the autumn of their years together?
It may not matter. As the final guitar chord fades away, damaged hearts seem healed.
Maybe yours will be, too.
Cody’s journey from the east coast to the heartland has allowed him to tap into the American bloodline, weaving traces of country and blues through a very pure urban rock and roll, creating a sound distinctly his, but part of all of us. This is great American music.
Thomas Cobb-Darkness The Color Of Snow, Crazy Heart
"The best songwriters age with their music, and allow that to appear naturally. We all live through our punk rock memories, and Cody Lee is no different; the ethos remains and the songs are quieter, more beautiful, and most importantly, more painful. Living will do that, and it's perfectly clear that he's lived, and lived adventurously. I can't wait to see where the next one takes him.”
Seth Fein-Nicodemus/Pygmalion Festival
Good old envy! Back in the days of CBGB and Max's Kansas City, here in New York City, Falcon Eddy's Cody Lee was a guy some people just didn't like very much. His talent, his rockstar looks, his offhand charisma, could make it difficult for competitive fellas in other bands to be friendly. Me? Hey! I nevvuh had no prob'ems wit nobody, okay.
Good new envy! Cody's latest work, and in my opinion his absolute best to date, "Songs For The New Depression", has our man going by the nom de guerre, Cody & The Gateway Drugs. This album is a happy rampage through the waaay-out-of-left-field style of Syd Barrett to the Midwest Americana DeLuxe of recent-ish John Mellencamp, with several other flavas, including some dollops of Mumford 'n' Broooce 'n' Cooder, "Between The Buttons", maybe a dash of Folk Implosion… Yes, this is a delicious and uplifting (the U in OMFUG) sonic stew. As the title hints, Cody, God bless him, is one angry leftie and while "SFTND" is NOT a political manifesto, all the songs (again, Cody's finest ever) are firmly rooted in the reality of life and love in the USA USA USA USA USA USA… Good on ya, kid.
Binky Phillips- My Life In The Ghost Of Planets:The Story Of a CBGB Almost Ran, Huffington Post and THE PLANETS.