Alice Lee’s Isolation Blues: Brilliant Music for Troubled Times

by delarue

Alice Lee has forged a career writing smart, catchy soul music with an often witheringly insightful lyricism. Her album The Wheel made the top ten albums of the year list here in 2017; a year later, her single Me, Too landed on the ten best songs of the year list. Now, she’s released Isolation Blues, the best song of 2020 so far. It’s part darkly rustic, fingerpicked 1920s style blues, part sophisticated soul anthem.

The New York multi-instrumentalist/singer – one of this city’s “essential workers” – dedicates it to John Prine and Bill Withers. She wears a mask in the video – and it’s subtitled, a characteristically subtle touch that speaks volumes:

The people outside got fear in their eyes
Above the cover of a mandated disguise
When we need each other most
And it doesn’t make sense
We stay away from each other
In self-defense
As we scatter and hide, just trying to stay alive
They didn’t get out, they couldn’t survive
…We’re expendable when we don’t have the cash unbled
‘Cause when you’re black, brown or poor
You might as well be dead
We once were free to roam now we cannot choose
To live or die with these isolation blues