On Arthur Lee Land's MySpace page, there is more than one video explaining how he achieved the (self-appointed) position of "One-Man Afrograss Folk Ensemble."
He describes looping as "live recordings and instruments and sounds, and stacking them up like a stack of pancakes." He records one bar at a time of simple beats on a bevy of rhythm instruments, eventually layering chords, guitar solos and melody over the mix.
In his live set, Lee Land does that with a couple of guitars, some hand drums, an electric bass, keyboards and a series of pedals. It's oddly transfixing trying to figure out what seemingly unimportant layer of sound he'll add next. In the final product - a full-band jumble of sounds that's musically dense, in a good way - all those sounds come together as easy-to-recognize players.
The result actually is pretty close to Lee Land's own description - he uses Afrobeat in the same way Paul Simon did on "Graceland" (and covers Simon in his show), and layers it with bits of Americana to create something that's more like the layering a full-sized a cappella group achieves than it is a solo act.
On Saturday, Lee Land brought that act to Old Town Pub for a show that, minus a serious over-reliance on the Peter Frampton-famed talk box, was constantly entertaining. The guy throws together covers and originals, plays off suggestions from a rowdy audience and emits a steady stream of goofy facial expressions that make his virtuosity seem only a little less effortless.
Typically, I do not like the kind of music Lee Land plays. And, honestly, I probably wouldn't have liked it Saturday had there been the nine or so musicians usually needed to play so many instruments, instead of just one guy.
But Arthur Lee Land genuinely can play all of those instruments. That he does it all at one time, and that he does it well, makes up for a lot, including vast differences in taste.
- Margaret Hair, 4 Points