Frankie Lee, the talented singer/songwriter who has crafted an impressive debut album in “American Dreamer,” has a life story that’s even more interesting than the first-rate music he makes. His father was killed in a motorcycle accident when Frankie was just 12 years old. He learned to play guitar and immersed himself in the Minneapolis music scene. At age 14 he was performing at local venues.
“I was raised on stage,” Lee notes. “These guys would bring me into the clubs, sit me behind the soundboard and give me all the Coca-Cola I could drink until they’d call me up for a song or two at the end of the night.”
At age 20, Lee dropped out of college and hit the open road. His travels took him to Nashville (where he met Merle Haggard), Austin, Texas and Los Angeles. In between he was diagnosed with narcolepsy and soon found himself hooked on the methamphetamines doctors prescribed to combat his condition.
He moved back to Minnesota in 2010 and, while working on a hog farm (seriously), began writing songs in earnest. And did I mention that a farming accident crushed three fingers on his left hand, forcing Lee to switch focuse from guitar to piano? You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
A single spin of “American Dreamer” underscores just how much promise Lee has as a musician. It’s a consistently excellent gathering of 10 tunes that showcases his writing prowess and a slightly nasal singing voice that brings the tunes to life. You won’t find a clunker on the record, but pay extra attention to standout cuts “High and Dry,” “Queen of Carolina,” “East Side Blues,” “Honest Men,” “Horses” and the set-closing title track. I can’t wait to hear more. (Jeffrey Sisk)