By Keith Sharp
Lee Aaron is facing a quandary. From the Vancouver home base of her Big Sister Record Company, Aaron is facing the challenge of figuring out complex global time schedules for interviews as she fields requests from magazines and digital podcasts all over Europe as well as Canada and the U.S in synch with the release of her latest album `Diamond Baby’.
In a way, it’s a throwback to the glory days of the mid 1980’s when Aaron’s “Metal Queen” persona graced the centrefold of all the world’s top glossy magazine centrefolds. Flash forward to 2018 and at a time when # Me Too is empowering a vocal female movement, the tag “Metal Queen” is taking on a whole new aura.
“There’s definitely a whole new positive reflection on the term “Metal Queen” allows Aaron on the phone from Vancouver. “For many years, I think a lot of Canadian media associated the term were afraid of me – they wouldn’t touch me with a 10-foot pole. I think they had an assumption that anyone who called themselves “Metal Queen’ wasn’t very smart coming from a heavy metal rock genre.”
“I also got the impression that people who lived in that genre were considered to live a hard lifestyle,” she continued. “Yet in reality, I was just a girl in a rock band with a husband and a family, raising two kids, making the peanut butter sandwiches and driving the mini van to dance recitals and soccer matches.”
Making a move from Toronto to Vancouver in 1994 and finding husband John Cody, Aaron began to pursue a second career as a blues singer, releasing a series of classic blues albums (her Museum anthology) but she could never quite get away from her rock roots and even concerts that she sporadically performed out west contained a liberal mix of rock and blues compositions.
It was when Aaron became acquainted with North Bay Ontario’s Sean Kelly in 2013 that the foundations for her 2016 comeback rock album, “Fire And Gasoline” germinated. A masterful guitar player who had previously worked, written and produced with the likes of Helix, Honeymoon Suite and Alan Frew’s 80’s Revival Band, and collaborated with Aaron on his `Metal On Ice’ book/recording project, Kelly not only co-wrote on both `Fire And Gasoline’ and the latest `Diamond Baby’ album but, along with bassist Dave Reimer and husband John Cody on drums, has now become a key fourth member of her quartet.
“Sean is definitely a stellar player who adds so much to our live performance but it’s also great that Dave co-wrote `Diamond Baby this time around and I am writing a lot more on my own,” Aaron observed. “I have also produced the last four album, So I think I’ve developed a lot in that area too.”
Aaron confirms that the original idea behind `Fire And Gasoline’ was to re-establish herself with fans outside of North America who were unaware that Aaron was still being productive. “My Canadian fans knew I was still releasing independent records, I did a Greatest Hits/Rarities anthology, my Museum Blues classics and a Live In Sweden DVD. I knew I wasn’t exactly at the forefront of Canadian rock culture anymore but what I wanted to establish with my last album was that I am still around, I am still writing contemporary rock music and I can still sing, I am just letting people know I am still here.”
Well received and promoted by a number of festival dates (which also took her back to Europe), `Fire And Gasoline’ (including winning a Music Express Award for Best Comeback Achievement), Aaron joined forces with Kelly, Reimer and husband John Cody for a follow up.
“Sean had the idea of us covering some 70’s classics,” explained Aaron. “Personally, it’s not something I have traditionally done, I’ve always written my own material. So my thought was that if we were going to do that, we would want to take the cover far enough away from the original that you were incorporating your own style but not so far away that people don’t recognize what they are listening to.”
Case in point was Aaron’s decision to cover Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” track. “I found this classic performance of Ritchie Blackmore and David Coverdale performing this track live in Los Angeles I think it wad 1974, and the arrangement was sparse,” enthused Aaron. “So I changed the vocal tempo two tones up to fit a female voice and we added mellotron, keyboard and some epic background vocals and kinda restyled the song.”
Aaron co-produced the album with former Stonebolt keyboard wiz, John Webster, and wrote five songs that captured the same 70’s hard rock vibe)” Diamond Baby”, “American High”, “Mercy”, “Best Thing” and “In The Bedroom “combined with seven classics including the aforementioned “Mistreated”, Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat”, Koko Taylor’s “I’m A Woman” Linda Ronstadt’s hit “You’re No Good and Willie Dixon’s “My Babe”.
When it was pointed out that all 12 tracks flow together like they are all original, Aaron was pleased with the comparison and noted that the album’s title track and first single Diamond Baby sums up the whole `Girl Power’ album theme. “It’s all about walking away from a toxic situation, realizing your own strength and taking charge of your own destiny.”
With her own imprint Big Sister Records distributed in North America via Universal and European distribution organized by a Metalville, division of Rough Trade, Aaron is well positioned to attract attention at a number of key festivals this summer including the Kitchener Blues Festival as well as major rock festivals in Germany and Sweden.
The only downside to Aaron’s rock resurrection is that she has found herself not being cool with her 13-year-old daughter Angella and 12-year-old son Jett. “My son Jett came to me with a bunch of songs he wanted me to help him download on to his iPod. One of those songs, “Cherry Bomb “recorded by The Runaways he had heard off the Guardians Of The Galaxy soundtrack.
“So I thought I would score some serious brownie points with my son by showing him footage of me performing that same song in Winnipeg with the original Runaways’ lead vocalist Lita Ford. My son is going to think this is so cool. Well he lasted about 20 seconds before he ran away from the computer before burying his head in the couch. I said “What!!” And he is going, “Oh Mom! Oh Mom! Like cringe 9000. Then I thought, okay, it’s official, I am no longer cool with my kids.” For further information and future tour dates, please link to www.leeaaron.com