Texas Gentlemen Guitarist Nik Lee Spreads the Word About 'TX Jelly'

Texas Gentlemen guitarist Nik Lee with his Fender 40th Anniversary Stratocaster.

Texas Gentlemen guitarist Nik Lee with his Fender 40th Anniversary Stratocaster.
(Image: © Michael Weintrob)

If you like your rock and roll rootsy and countrified and get your music news via the interwebs, you’ve probably heard of the Texas Gentlemen by now.

Since the late summer, almost every major music website has premiered one of the band’s songs or music videos, streamed their new album or interviewed a member or two. Which is strange because, although the Gents (as they like to be called) have been around for ages, they’ve spent the bulk of those ages lurking in the shadows, usually as songwriters, session musicians or in backing bands, supporting anyone from Kris Kristofferson to Nikki Lane.

Recently, however, the mostly Texas-based Gents decided it was time to step into the spotlight—Rockpile style—give themselves a faux-foppish name and record an album. Their debut disc, TX Jelly, was released in the fall via New West Records.

The band’s repertoire “could be anything from a country song to a blues-inspired tune, or it could be something with funk or soul undertones,” says Gents guitarist Nik Lee, a product of Arlington, Texas. “Hopefully anything we tie ourselves to will be something with roots-oriented undertones and overtones, something long lasting, something classic. The songwriting is most important; it doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to any particular style.”

Lee ain’t kidding. TX Jelly sounds like a rural American college radio station that’s been airlifted from the mid Seventies, shifting from genre to genre with total abandon—and it all works surprisingly well. There’s catchy country (“Gone,” “Trading Paint”), sunny soul rock (“Bondurant Women”) and a party-friendly mostly instrumental blues-rocker with a killer guitar riff (“Habbie Doobie”). There’s even a touch of retro pop soul that sounds like early Seventies Beach Boys (“Superstition”). One definite highlight is “Pain,” a Little Feat–style rocker, which—thanks to an ascending E diminished chord—occasionally sounds like a long-lost George Harrison co-write from an alternate universe.

“ ‘Pain’ was the only song where I said I wanted to go back and do it again until I got a particular guitar tone,” says Lee, who favors a well-traveled Fender 40th Anniversary Strat and a fairly simple rig. “It was definitely a remnant of some sort of Beatles tune—a growly, wiry tone.”

In a move that was sure to scoop up some bonus mojo, the Gents recorded TX Jelly at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, home of Duane Allman, Waylon Jennings, Aretha Franklin and a horde of musical icons.

“We got a warm feeling at FAME, like walking into an older family member’s living room,” Lee says. “There’s wood paneling, pictures hung everywhere. In the middle of a guitar take, you look up at a picture of Little Richard and you just giggle. And it’s him standing two feet away from where I’m standing.”

NIK LEE AXOLOGY

• GUITAR Fender 40th Anniversary Stratocaster
• AMP Fender Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed combo
• EFFECTS MXR Phase 90, Electro-Harmonix Cathedral