Sanctuary - 2018 album release

‘These 11 songs are about my attitude towards life, how I love my Lord, and how grateful I am for the talent and career which He has blessed me with. And now I am finally able to share this gift, as it should be." —Bryan Lee

Record Review - Bryan Lee - Sanctuary

February 2019
Vicente P. Zumel
Radio PICA - La Hora del Blues
Apartado de Correos 12.085
08080 Barcelona - Spain


I do not know if it is true or not, but according to Bryan Lee’s own words, all the arrangements of the songs included in the album came to his mind while he was sleeping. The night before a show at Spitsbergen church in Norway, our man dreamed how those songs should sound, which he thought was an inspiration Lord gave him during the dream. The next day he played them as he had dreamed and it was a so spectacular success, that Bryan and his band recorded them while they were staying in Norway. Seven years later, producer Steve Hamilton mixed them in his studio and published the album we have now on hands. Bryan Lee lost his sight at the age of eight and when he was fifteen he moved to Chicago where he spent twenty years developing a successful career as a singer and guitar player, performing with the great bluesmen of that time. Once Muddy Waters said about him he was sure he would become a true legend, which has been relatively true, as he has recorded fourteen albums up to date and has done a good number of world tours. Backed by an excellent roster of musicians, Bryan gives us a varied selection of songs ranging from gospel to blues, soul, rhythm and blues and New Orleans groove. Listen to the music of a real master like Bryan Lee becomes a real pleasure for music lovers and you will feel really difficult to get away. GREAT.



Living in troubled times and growing up in the musical era in which I did, one might suspect I would take solace in the words of the Beatles' "Let It Be".  I, instead, find myself turning to the wisdom of Blues masters.  Bryan Lee, an elder spokesman of the blues, who hails from New Orleans, has recorded an album that incorporates the wisdom of the ages formatted in such a way that people do not hear it and run in terror, thinking of the prevailing problems within the religious system.  Sanctuary offers a common-sense, spiritual solution, that is able to be understood by the everyday "man or woman on the street".  Not forsaking spiritual principals, but putting them out there without all the religious trappings that make people believe that he is just another religious blowhard, Bryan delivers gospel with a healthy serving of blues to go along with it. This album took me back to my days with the old-time tent revivals.  It offered words of admonishment, encouragement, testimonials, songs of praise and more...all backed by some of the sweetest music this side of the Pearly Gates.  I laughed, I cried, I sang along, shouted a few "amen's" and "hallelujah's" and raised my hands in praise to the Lord.  I even broke out my wallet until I remembered that I was listening to an album and there would be no offering taken.  The sweetest thing of all was the music throughout the entire experience.  Bryan Lee has an understated guitar style, not unlike that laid back, flowing style of B.B. King.  Until Thomas A. Dorsey, church music was almost entirely songs of praise to God.  Dorsey introduced the human element with songs like "Precious Lord, Take My Hand".  Dorsey would go on to be recognized as the Father of Gospel music.  Lee and company take things a step further, taking the listener to church.  Regardless of whether he is performing blues, jazz, soul or good old-time rock & roll, Bryan Lee's audience is in for a great time.  Sanctuary will be remembered as an all-time classic from a man who is no less than a living legend.  The beauty of this whole deal is that regardless of whether you are a fan of gospel or not, this is a great blues album.  I recommend it highly. - Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson, Reflections In Blue, October 2018


This funky white boy with the blues already had a load of Nawlins and Chicago under his belt with an already impressive career when he was touched by the spirit in Norway which led to the genesis of this funky, blues gospel album. While just mentioning gospel can be off putting to a lot of listeners, there's something about the way this soul comes from the soul that you'd be a fool not to check it out because of preconceived notions about gospel. He certainly takes the secular to church and somehow the two entities find a middle ground in his soul without having to fight for it. Tasty and unexpected, this cat has a way of seeing things better than the sighted can. Hot stuff. 

Midwest Records October 5, 2018


 Sanctuary is a truly surprising release, a mix of downright, full-throttle blues and near-gospel tracks that come mostly from Lee’s own writing. Lee, blind since age eight or so, has been picking guitar for over sixty years and the ability such experience brings rings clear and loud throughout here. Muddy Waters once tipped Lee as a blues survivor and likely living legend: praise don’t come any higher in the blues world.

With eleven tracks to play with this album also features some delightful piano and keys work and a totally well-rounded performance from a host of top-dollar US southern sidemen including some simply wonderful , inspiring backing vocals from Dierdrie Fellner. Lee has a rasping, gripping vocal delivery that always remains just the right side of uplifting. In many ways Lee successfully dishes out a remarkable range of songs that impress for their rhythmic class and dramatic lyrics, reflecting Lee’s own deeply held religious opinions and beliefs, a factor that clearly surfaces at every turn. But this is no simple Old Time Religion or gospel offering; Sanctuary is an album  roaring with long-held religious fervour and belief. This is a release crammed full to bursting with burning blues and fiery fretwork from a man working at the very top of his game.

Sanctuary hits all the needed spots, delivering funky overdrive, and down and dirty blues snatches, whenever and wherever required, highlighting Lee’s huge ability, talent and downright towering genius. This is an album to hit loud, hard and repeatedly.


The album in which Lee expresses his love for the Lord and gratitude for his talent and career in eleven tracks reflects his faith. The first of eight originals "Fight For the Light", a funky gospel and "The Gift" can be heard on Bourbon Street. With "Jesus Gave Me the Blues" we get even more funk and also "U-Haul" (from Cootie Stark) seems to come from "his" New Orleans. With the title song "Sanctuary" you stand praying and singing in the church. During the gripping "Do not Take My Blindness for a Weakness" and the beautiful "I Is not Gonna Stop" (with Jimmy Voegeli on honky tonk piano) you will be left quiet and whole. You get even more Bourbon feeling with "Mr. Big "and" Only If You Praise the Lord ". "Jesus Is My Lord and Savior", the closing track is a jazzy track that represents the class of musicians present (as Deidre Fellner: b-vocs, Marc Spagone: guitar, Jack Berry & David Kasik: bass, Matt Liban: drums, Steve Hamilton: percussion & Greg Koch: dobro) in the paint. Bryan Lee had a dream, a gift from God. He now shares that gift with us on 'Sanctuary'. Also that he is allowed to use his blues.

Elmore Magazine Iain Patience November 2018


 When a musician says he has always wanted to record this album, it is a reflection of his sincere desire. Bryan Lee on September 1 for Ear-Relevant Records has just recorded such an album and called it "Sanctuary". Global radio promotion is being conducted by Frank Roszak and his FRRP. This unique and distinctive blues guitarist really needs to be listened to, because there is something to hear. Bryan Lee was born on March 16, 1943 in the town of Two Rivers in Wisconsin. Life played fiercely and cruelly with him. Namely, with only eight years it was completely blind. Since somehow he wanted to compensate for this huge handicap, Bryan devoted himself to music and after several years made significant progress, which was a further motivation to learn and progress. In the early 1960's he performed the music of Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, but equally he found his patterns in the musical excerpt of Elmore James, Alberta King and Alberta Collinsa. At the end of 1962 he moved to New Orleans, where he lived until the terrible Hurricane Katrina. Consequently, Bryan Lee joined the entire band of musicians who, through their humanitarian work, started life in the desolate New Orleans to start dead. For blues fans, the album "Sanctuary" is a true relaxation discovery. OK, I have not just had the opportunity to promote this unique and distinctive blues artist right away. And so open minds and clever consciences point you to the fact that Bryan Lee has impressive record activity behind him and it's true that he needs to be given a little more attention and give him the opportunity to enter your music world.

 Those who know a little bit more about this truly phenomenal blues artist know that just over a couple of listening albums can quickly come to the conclusion that Bryan Lee is a unique name on the blues scene.The "Sanctuary" album is just an example of how it should sound, how the compositions are matched with a projected design, how the compositions have their head and tail, as gordo and powerful sound, that musicians clearly and quickly recognize the true "mood" and then simply culverts. What is gained as a "feedback" are terrible things. This weight of gospel blues is so pronounced and powerful that it will hardly disconnect any speaker from the speaker. All in all Bryan was helped by his friend Steve Hamilton. Any gathering team of musicians did an excellent job all over the studio, but all about the blueprint of this album, Bryan was dreaming, and then everything was that way and it just became a reality. Absolutely incredible and every honor! 

 Sound Guardian November 2018


As if some good mojo was involved, suddenly the new Bryan Lee album came into their hands. Recently the question came to me about what it would be like with Bryan Lee, because it was already an eternity since I saw him at work. It must now be 8 years ago at an edition of the unfortunately "Bierbeek Blues' d Up" that I saw Bryan Lee perform in our country.

 He still had it then and still has that very high 'Crescent City' content. The soul of New Orleans always hangs in the atmosphere. Bourbon Street is just outdoors. Bryan Lee Was born on 16 March 1946 in "Two Rivers" in the Badger State Winsconsin but eventually opted for the "Big Easy" as habitat. Lee lost his eyesight already at the age of eight. His enthusiastic interest in early rock and blues was stimulated in the 1950s by late night listening sessions via the Nashville-based radio station WLAC-AM. It was so that he first came across names like Elmore James, Albert King and Albert Collins. Toward the end of his teenage years, Lee played rhythm guitar in a regional band called The Glaciers. By the 1960s, Lee's interest turned to Chicago blues and soon he opened for some of his heroes from his youth. In 1979 he released his first album called Beauty Is not Always Visual. In January 1982, Lee moved to New Orleans and eventually found himself at the "Old Absinthe House" on Bourbon Street. His nickname is "Braille Blues Daddy".

We can only be happy that Bryan Lee is still doing well and that's how his new album "Sanctuary" is. An album with 11 songs of which they are the few new originals of his hand. The inspiration for writing these songs came after a dream and so it is not only Dr. Martin Luther King who experienced a dream. It happened in a night for a festival performance in a church in Spitsbergen, Norway, when this guitar legend from New Orleans heard a musical arrangement for the "Our Father" in his sleep. Bryan Lee and his band were so inspired that they came to record the song during their "tour" in Norway. Unfortunately, it remained in the slide for another 7 years. It was partly because of producer Steve Hamilton that the songs and this album became reality. The result is an exciting masterpiece from which Bryan Lee can express his love for the Lord and his gratitude for his talent and career. It became a dream come true ...  In a spirit of gospel and NOLA Bryan Lee and the band open here with "Fight For The Light" and also on the following "The Gift" they stay in the vicinity of "Bourbon Street". As if the "Meters" put their funk into gospel, he brings the funky "Jesus Gave Me The Blues" ... and the funk. It must have been a blessing for the NOLA lover and the blues enthusiast tout court that Bryan Lee opted for New Orleans in the 80's. He even survived the hurricane "Katrina" and then you can do everything. Also when you hear "U-Haul" it seems as if you are transporting yourself to one or another club in the "French Quarter". With the title track "Sanctuary" the gospel and the faith come awfully close to you. Songs like "Mr. Big" and "Only If You Praise The Lord" remain in the same atmosphere of the unmistakable sound of yonder. Funk and profound faith come together in the beautifully beautiful and poignant "Do not Take My Blindness and A Weakness" and with the backing vocals as an intro to "I Is not Gonna Stop Now" we can no longer continue to suppress shivers. With the closing "Lord and Savior" it stands for me like a pole. Jesus was born in New Orleans!

 Belgium October 2018 


 Bryan Lee is a bluesman different from others, not because he lost his sight at the age of eight, many other musicians and especially in the blues having lived the same thing as him ... What differentiates the singer and guitarist Neo-Orléanais others may be held in his immense humility and in his permanent desire to thank life and God, every opportunity being good to be grateful to have received as an offering the necessary talent to carry out a career that has resulted in fourteen albums and numerous tours around the world. The story of "Sanctuary" is also a bit unusual since Bryan Lee claims to have heard this prayer is his arrangements during his sleep, on the eve of a concert in a church in Norway, and to have replayed the following day at the instinct during his show. Recorded in stride, the piece will sleep for no less than seven years to allow time for the artist to prepare enough to make a real album and it is at the end of the summer that Bryan Lee ended by We present this brand new jewel, a collection of eleven pieces shared between original works and adaptations that does not deviate from the tradition voluntarily established and that transports us into a world in which gospel and blues but also soul, jazz and music. Louisiana accents meet to form something eminently sacred and at the same time incredibly human. The elegant game and the captivating voice, Lee draws very intelligently the musicians who accompany him and manages to offer treasures that will delight believers as well as atheists or even agnostics, titles full of feeling and groove even downright swing such as "Fight For The Light", "Jesus Gave Me The Blues", "Mr. Big", "Do not Take My Blindness For A Weakness" or "Jesus Is My Lord And Savior" which make "Sanctuary" a of these albums that can not leave indifferent. Certainly, Muddy Waters was not wrong when he declared that Bryan Lee would one day become a legend ...

France November 2018


Every now and then over the years, I’ve come across one of Bryan Lee’s albums and been suitably impressed. Here’s another, and I’m more impressed than ever. Known as the “Braille Blues Daddy”, Bryan was born in Wisconsin and lost his sight by the age of 8 ; he spent time in Chicago (he is a regular at Buddy Guy’s Legends club) and he’s been living in New Orleans since 1982, and both of those cities certainly make their mark on this album. Strictly speaking, this is sacred musicit’s not gospel (well, not quite) and it’s not guitar evangelism; most often these are personal, blues styled or flavoured songs that reference Jesus and Bryan’s life, beliefs, and outlook (though how  many albums do you have with a writer’s credit to “John The Baptist”?). Take a listen to the opening ‘Fight For The Light’ with its super-funky Crescent City feel, though later it morphs into a blues shuffle, orn the Chicago club blues of ‘Don’t Take My Blindness For A Weakness’. Bryan’s guitar playing bears traces of Freddy King, whilst his vocals are strong and lived-in. There’s a little Americana in the title track, which features Greg Koch on  dobro, but more often the sounds of Luther Allison, Lonnie Brooks and others come through; the multi-tracked backing vocals of Deidre Fellner add a breathy soul feel, or a gospel choir call and response, as appropriate. As I said earlier, yes, I’m impressed!

From Blues in the  South; Norman Darwen   December 2018


If you know Bryan Lee at all it would be for the times he worked with a young up and comer called Kenny Wayne Shepherd.But he was around a long time before that and he’s still going now. Largely known around the New Orleans area he’s put out around a dozen albums plus live releases Where this one differs is that it’s a religious blues album.Now a lot of blues records reference God. Or more often the Devil but this stems from a 2011 dream where Mr Lee came up with an arrangement of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. He recorded that the next day but it’s taken all this time for a record to be completed. And it’s well worth the wait. Now some people are put off by God. Me, I’m a lapsed Catholic who was once training to be a pastor so it couldn’t be more up my street even if God and I have seen fit to part ways. enjoy what is a .But you don’t need to have the fever in your soul to  remarkably good record. Mr Lee and his band mix up soul, blues and gospel in fine fashion. The good news is that there is nothing po-faced about the music which is largely uplifting. Most of the tracks are Lee originals and I was taken first time out by ‘Jesus Gave Me The Blues’, ‘Mr. Big’ and ‘Only If You Praise The Lord’. And a couple of weeks of relentless playing has not withered its charm.  Definitely one of my blues albums of the year.

UK October 2018 

 Bryan Lee dreamed Sanctuary's musical arrangements the night before to perform at a church festival in Spitsbergen, Norway. The next day he played with his band as he had dreamed and even decided to record it in that country. But the revelation that was presented to him in that distant Nordic country would take seven years to see the light. Just this year, Lee joined producer Steve Hamilton and finished shaping the album. It is an album of eleven songs in which the blind guitarist of New Orleans expresses his love for God and his gratitude to life.

 In the album there are many religious themes and it is clear that the artist is a man of faith. In Fight for the light, the first track of the album, begins with the bass groove and then Lee sings that you have to fight for the light, that "Jesus will take you very high" and that "Satan is a liar". Jesus gave me the blues is a funky with a lot of hammond and choruses in which he reveals that, besides the blues, he also gave the Holy Spirit power. In U-Haul he talks about his search and what he found on his guitar and the Lord. Only if you praise the Lord is like a sermon in a church on the outskirts of New Orleans surrounded by a lot of color and faithful. In The Lord's prayer and Jesus is my Lord and Savior also exposes their beliefs and how much his life changed when he opened the doors of his heart to God: "I used to smoke a lot, take a lot of drugs and wish for my neighbor's wife, but I do not do that anymore. "

 The rest of the topics are also self-referential. The gift is a monumental shuffle in which he recalls his beginnings as a musician, how Chuck Berry and Little Richards inspired him to play rock and roll and how the music of Freddie King definitely turned him to blues. Mr. Big is his criticism of the "important man", that no matter how much money he has and more people get ahead, he will never achieve happiness. Do not take my blindness for a weakness is a testimony of how he managed to get ahead despite losing his sight when he was eight years old. "You can see the sun, the moon and the stars. I can only see darkness, but do not take my blindness for a weakness, "she sings as the guitar expresses with a single, very meaningful sound. With Is not Going Stop, he leaves that he will continue to play until "Jesus takes me home."

 And of course there is Sanctuary, the song that motivated the whole album, an exquisite melody that Bryan Lee plays with great passion accompanied by a beautiful choir and Greg Koch's slide dobro guitar.

 Bryan Lee managed to merge very well the religious preaching with the blues and the result is a very spiritual album, but with a catchy rhythm and visceral solos, which can be taken with absolute naturalness to a juke joint or a small church where the choirs shine gospel.

Malbec and Blues Argentina


The Braille Blues Daddy, as we also know Bryan Lee, will be born on March 16, 1943 in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. At the age of eight, he loses sight of his eyes, but that has never been a hindrance to his development as a blues musician. In the early fifties he was tethered to the radio when WLAC, Nashville music channel broadcast their rock 'n roll and blues hours late at night and is captured by the music of Elmore James and T-Bone Walker.
From the age of fifteen, Bryan is ready to perform and in the late fifties he and his band The Glaciers, with which he plays songs by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard in the support act for Bill Haley & The Comets, definitively declares his name. settle. In the early sixties he came into contact with the music of Muddy Waters, Howlin 'Wolf, Hubert Sumlin and Freddie King and switched Bryan Lee to Chicago Blues oriented repertoire.
He even succeeds in being able to act as a support act for his hero Muddy Waters in the eighties and when Muddy lets him know "Bryan, stay with this, you will be living a legend", he knows he is on the right track is. In the meantime, Bryan settled permanently in New Orleans, the city he fell in love with at the end of the seventies and where he feels at home. He finds in the Old Absinthe House in the French Quarter for more than fourteen years a fixed stage, where he can perform five days a week. From Quint Davis, producer of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where Bryan makes his appearance for twenty-six years, he gets the nickname 'New Orleans Blues Institution'.
Meanwhile, he is more than thirteen albums further, was nominated for a Grammy Award for his contribution to the 'Live! In Chicago 'album by Kenny Wayne Sheperd and Friends and in 2010 won a BMA award for Best Rock Blues Album.

Now there is 'Sanctuary', an album on which the foundation was laid seven years ago. The night before a festival performance that will take place in a church in the Norwegian Spitbergen, Bryan Lee hears a complete musical arrangement for a prayer in his dream. The next day it is already on the set list and also Bryan decides to record the song immediately in Norway in the studio.
An encounter with producer Steve Hamilton, who spontaneously makes his studio and expertise available, makes it possible to further shape this project. Bryan Lee feels the intense need to continue to spread his faith and gratitude for his talent and career, "The Good Lord gives me this gift and I want to share it with you".
And he does that from the first note Fight For The Light that is drenched in a funky groovy sound, which is so connected to the Crescent City and that Bryan Lee is perfect for him. But whether it is shuffles (The Gift, I Is not Gonna Stop and Jesus Is My Lord And Savior), funky grooves (Jesus Gave Me The Blues and Do not Take My Blindness For A Weaknes) or slow songs (Mr. Big and Only If You Praise The Lord), the music is always like a house as we are used to by this very experienced blues musician.
But on 'Sanctuary' the music is actually subservient to the religious message that Bryan Lee wants to convey, it is only meant to give his message extra strength. It is his deeply rooted faith in God that he wants to share with his listeners and his gratitude for the talent that God has given him and that he will continue to interpret until Jesus lets him know that it is good.
Bryan Lee sends his message with the greatest of ease, with a lot of peace, passion, conviction and expression in his voice. It sometimes reminds me (Sanctuary, with powerful acoustic acoustic work and Hammond support) of Solomon Burke's brilliant album 'Do not Give Up On Me'. The last two tracks (The Lord's Prayer and Jesus Is My Lord And Savior) were recorded seven years ago with a number of Norwegian accompanists at the Red Light Studio in Oslo and form the basis for the creation of this Sanctuary.

Mladen Loncar - Mike


 If you think the blues and faith are mutually exclusive concepts, Bryan Lee has news for you. Far from the usual dirges that get sung in church, Sanctuary is about as joyful and uplifting as music can get. With the energy of an old time tent revival and some of the sweetest music this side of the pearly gates, this disc is damn awesome.

Sanctuary started with a dream. The night before a performance at a church in Norway, the blind New Orleans guitarist dreamt an entire musical arrangement for The Lord’s Prayer. The next day he performed it and, so inspired were he and the band, they recorded it shortly thereafter. But it would be 7 years later that a chance meeting with Steve Hamilton would result in this 11 song masterpiece that expresses Lee’s attitude toward life, his love for the Lord, and gratitude for his talent and career.

Lee lost his sight at the age of 8, but by 15 he was playing music for crowds in the Mid-West. A love of the blues led him to spend nearly 20 years in Chicago, and Muddy Waters told him to “stick with this, Bryan- one day you, too, will be a living legend.” What makes Sanctuary a compelling listen is the sweet, soulful musicianship and the sincerity of Bryan Lee’s beliefs. I admire his faith as I revel in his songwriting and playing abilities. This is a great CD.

KEY CUTS: Jesus Gave Me The Blues, U-Haul, Mr. Big

 The Rock Doctor; John Kereiff November 12, 2018