Frankie Lee is a travelling man, that much was plain to see straight from the opening lines of his set opener at St Pancras Old Church, “East Side Blues”; “When I’m on the south side, I got nowhere to roam, sit and watch the sky fall down, a stranger in your own damn town”. The track speaks of pining for a simpler past, and described in the writer’s own words as, “An ode to the capitalist investors and developers who’ve destroyed every side of town and built shit that won’t last”.
Many of Lee’s songs adopt this weary traveller lens on the world. “Queen Of Carolina” sees Lee observe, “I’m rolling down the back lanes of my mind, a switchblade girl is carving up a star, she can be the world for blind and bleeding hearts”. In between the miles that roll by, Lee sets to reflect on tracks such as the eponymous track from his debut album, “American Dreamer”; “Everything is the same as it was before, the rich keep killing off the poor”. Set against the familiar Americana smokey voice and harmonica and acoustic guitars, one is left in no doubt that Lee is one of the new generation of disaffected American youth, drifting through the neighbourhoods left behind and ignored Wall Street bankers and Washington policy-makers. One cannot help but be reminded, while watching Lee, of those lines from Father John Misty’s, “Bored In America”;“They gave me a useless education, a subprime loan, on a craftman’s home”.
It’s clear where Lee finds refuge in the modern America where the same old problems are still to be found. On “High And Dry”, dedicated tonight to Lee’s home “right in the middle of America”, he sweetly praises his father’s trusty old motor and his mother’s “songs from the rodeo”, before telling us all to “grow your own”, though what crops is left to the imagination.
All these songs seem to give off the radiation of swampy heat, rusty convertibles and the polka dot shirt and cowboy hat that Lee is sporting tonight. Its gives a warming effect on a rather windy and wet evening, where the barren autumn branches can be seen through the windows of The St Pancras Old Church. Lee’s sincerity and candour can be seen through the between song chatter, and I can certainly see London taking to the infectious persona of Lee.