This self-effacing, unassuming Brooklynite bowled me over at the South by Southwest festival in March: his scrappy soul-pop originals share with Jeff Buckley's songs an effortless grace and deep-seated power but never devolve into the late singer's annoying histrionics. On Chris Lee, the debut album released recently by New York indie Misra Records, his voice fits neatly in the rhythmic pocket fashioned by his flexible trio, which is comprised of players from New York's jazz-and-improv underground: guitarist Jeremy Wilms, drummer Andrew Barker of the Gold Sparkle Band, and bassist Andrew Burnes (of Loren MazzaCane Connors's rock-tinged Haunted House). Lee's blunt lyrics fearlessly confront everything from his raging libido to his punishing insecurity: on "The Sexual Politics of Me" he damns propriety in favor of physical abandon ("I hark sweet high pitches, stunningly sung / Amid faceless frenzies of britches and tongue"), yet on "(Please Don't Be My) Maud Gonne" he confesses his vulnerability ("I don't wanna be some sick poet in a tower / Shut out by true love and reduced to counting hours"). He doesn't always paint an attractive self-portrait, but when he lifts into that liquid falsetto, he's the most beautiful human in the room. Sunday, 10 PM, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; 773-227-4433.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mike Galinsky.