• With an All-Star Lineup, Nate Lee Flies High on Wings of a Jetliner

    Exclusive first-listen to "Wonderbat," from Nate Lee's Wings of a Jetliner.

    If you want to know where Nate Lee is coming from, just cue up "Weeping Mandolin Waltz" or the track that immediately follows it, "Arachnid Stomp," on Sam Bush and David Grisman's 2003 duo outing Hold On We're Strummin.'

    "I must've listened to that album at least 100 times," chuckles Lee. "I still listen to it regularly, and I think you can hear a lot of that stuff, note-for-note, in my playing — things I took from listening to that CD and transcribing what they did."

    Another way to learn about Lee is to listen to his own debut full-length album Wings of a Jetliner, which drops June 12.

    Michael EckAbout the author: Roots scholar and multi-instrumentalist Michael Eck is a respected songwriter, nationally exhibited painter and award-winning cultural critic. A signature artist with Weber Mandolins, he plays with Lost Radio Rounders, Berkshire Ramblers, Good Things and Spancilhill.

    The qualities which make Hold On such a compelling listen — deep musicality, honking groove, smart pacing, a balance of melody and flash — are indeed found throughout Jetliner, which is produced by Lee's Becky Buller Band colleague, Professor Dan Boner.

    The Virginia-born, Texas-bred Lee, alternating between a 2014 Pava A model and a 2016 Pava F, recorded with dual Neumann KM 84s, easily glides from the classically-influenced arpeggios of "Quick Select" (written as a project for Dallas college mentor Sam Germany) to the new acoustic romp of "Wonderbat" (Lee's nickname for the Pava F) to the pretty pep of "Rook Roller."

    As a rule of thumb, Lee, an expectant father, wrote the instrumental numbers on Jetliner and chose, along with Boner, the songs he sings in an inviting voice gently reminiscent of Dan Tyminski — who unwittingly provided the nexus for the album.

    Lee, who sits on the Planning Committee for the International Bluegrass Music Association's Leadership Bluegrass program, says, "At World of Bluegrass last year, in Raleigh, after the keynote speech, they announced that Dan was going to be playing at the Lincoln Theatre with his band. I had never seen him play with his own group and I wasn't going to miss that. So I got there early, sat in the front row, and watched the whole set. It was fantastic. Just watching Dan sing and play mandolin was amazing, and the band was hot, too. I immediately went back to my hotel room, and was, like, "It's time for me to make my album. I can't wait any longer. I've got to make my music."

    Nate Lee

    A respected teacher himself, combining private sessions and camp visits, Lee began picking as a peanut, thrilled by the local resources in Dallas, and studying, from the age of ten on, with players like Joe Carr, Gerald Jones and Steve Smith. He eventually ended up playing fiddle alongside Smith in both Alan Munde Gazette and the Hard Road Trio.

    "I was known as a fiddle player," Lee explains with a wink, "because I had such a great mandolin teacher when I was young."

    "I learned from Steve and we just ended up being in all the same bands. Obviously, since he was the teacher, he was going to be the mandolin player. Years later, about 2014 or so, I decided, I've always wanted to be the mandolin player, so I'm going to make that happen and I did. Eventually, in 2017, Becky Buller called me and that was my first big mandolin gig."

    Along with guitarist/fiddler Boner, Buller herself fiddles and sings with Lee on four Jetliner tunes, joining a crack studio band populated by Buller banjo man Ned Luberecki, guitarist Wyatt Rice, bassist Todd Philips and Mile Twelve violinist Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, along with special guests bassist Daniel 'The Hulk' Hardin, singer Daniel Salyer and mandolinist Thomas Cassell (who duets with Lee on the trilling, Dawg-leaning "Serenity").

    "I'm pretty excited about "Serenity" and how that one came out," Lee says. "Thomas' solo on that is one of my favorite parts of the record. Together, we all created what I just think of as a playground for me to improvise over on my five-string fiddle. And from the moment we hit the downbeat, I just couldn't believe how lucky I was to get to play with those people on that kind of groove. I could have just done that one tune with them the whole week!"

    "You don't always get your first choice of who's going to be on your record because people are busy. I couldn't believe it, I got my first call for every single instrument!"

    Track Listing

    • Wonderbat
    • Tobacco
    • Quick Select
    • Somewhere Far Away
    • Serenity
    • All Along
    • Comealong Brown Dog
    • Minerís Grave
    • Rook Roller
    • The More I Pour
    • Sweet Allis Chalmers
    • Love Medicine

    The Musicians

    • Nate Lee - mandolin, lead vocals, fiddle, banjos
    • Todd Phillips - bass
    • Wyatt Rice - guitar
    • Bronwyn Keith-Hynes - fiddle
    • Ned Luberecki - banjo
    • Becky Buller - fiddle, harmony vocals
    • Daniel Hardin - bass, harmony vocals
    • Dan Boner - guitar, fiddle, harmony vocals
    • Thomas Cassell - mandolin
    • Daniel Salyer - harmony vocals

    Additional Information

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. CES's Avatar
      CES -
      Looking forward to this!!
    1. Nate Lee's Avatar
      Nate Lee -
      Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
      Looking forward to this!!
      Thank you! I'm looking forward to releasing the project!
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the anniversary of this feature interview.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the anniversary of this feature interview.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the anniversary of this feature interview.