Earnest yet slightly lecherous singer-songwriter John Mayer too freshman-friendly for you? Wary of getting caught in a rabid-fan trap at the Smirnoff that you can't back out of 'cause they love him too much, baby? Check out New Yorker Chris Lee, at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton on Saturday night, instead: Cool Rock, Lee's third album, might be the year's most accurately titled disc, a sweet breeze of understated blue-eyed soul that's heavy on the fluttery clean-channel electric guitar and Lee's exceptionally fine falsetto, which soars like Jeff Buckley's free of the eternal-pain-of-a-thousand-lonely-nights thing. Like Mayer, Lee sees no problem in peppering his songs with little vocal and instrumental detours--he does some not-bad scatting at the end of the peppy "(I Was a Teenage) Symphony to God," and various New York jazz dudes (and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley) form his backing band, so his singing is never without sturdy, nuanced support nor his arrangements the occasional vibraphone line for a wisp of complementary flavor. Yet there's a recondite quality to Lee's writing that lends it a certain cool-rock cachet Mayer obviously lacks. No room for squares here.
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