posted June 5th, 2024

Playing guitar on most of Tim Buckley’s rambling folk-rock numbers, Lee Underwood’s former rock career typically manifested outside jazz influences. After a decade and more had elapsed, though, Lee embarked on a more cleansing, spiritual venture — an acoustic one, that is! — with his 1988 solo work, California Sigh. Drag City has unearthed this magnificent Lee Underwood/Steve Roach co-production for a first-ever reissue due out June 28; the second single, “Quietude Oasis”, arrives today with a calming visualizer.

Quietude Oasis” comes bubbling up from deep within the living earth. Lee’s guitar, heavily draped with marvelous lengths of reverberance, is recast from its organic impressionist form into a sequence of gorgeous sonic abstractions. His composition is unharmed by any potential artifice of ‘studio-as-instrument’ application; instead, the production extends Lee’s intentions, limning and reflecting his music images in its process.

An obscure but fascinating work, California Sigh is a snapshot of Lee’s thought pool in the late 1980s: the allure of the psycho-spiritual world, combined with his passion for the great outdoors. Sampling Mother Nature’s cool breezes and glistening waterways across the album, Lee paints with broad acoustic strokes and zephyr-like fingerpicking to lull us into contemplation — decorated by Steve Roach’s synthesizers, Chas Smith’s pedal steel, and Kevin Braheny Fortune’s soprano sax. Now re-discovered and remastered for vinyl and digital platforms, Lee Underwood’s California Sigh is here for us all on June 28, 2024!

Artists in this story: Lee Underwood