another one extremely hard to categorize
the fact that Willie Nelson made a contribution helped decide
country, folk, blues, jazz, blue-eyed soul
mostly good stuff
Grade - 1.8
released Jan 25th, 2011
from the album - Windows Are Rolled Down - 2.0
Bio from all music
With his laid-back vocal delivery and acoustic songwriting, Amos Lee draws inspiration from soul music, contemporary jazz, and '70s folk artists like James Taylor. The Philadelphia native first became serious about performing while attending the University of South Carolina during the mid-'90s. After graduating with a degree in English, he taught elementary school before deciding to pursue a music career full-time. A period of waiting tables and bartending followed as Lee honed his songwriting skills. He eventually landed some high-profile gigs as an opening act, including an extended tour with pianist/vocalist Norah Jones, whose bassist, Lee Alexander, agreed to produce Lee's first album.
With Alexander's help, Amos Lee released his self-titled debut on Blue Note in 2005. The album won Lee a small following for his blend of acoustic funk, folk, and light jazz, and he returned one year later with a sophomore effort, Supply and Demand. Last Days at the Lodge followed in 2008, cracking the Top 40 upon its release and becoming Lee's highest-charting album to date. His audience grew accordingly, prompting Lee to ask some of his most famous fans -- including Willie Nelson, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, Calexico, and Lucinda Williams -- to appear on his next record. The result, Mission Bell, was recorded in 2010 and released early the following year.
Album Review from ny daily news
Soul music soars on a shout, a surge of organ, a sock-it-to-me guitar and a line of punching horns.
From the classic recordings of Aretha to those of modern-day Bettye LaVette, soul likes it anxious and hard.
But what about those soul stars who invert the formula? Many have, going back to Bill Withers, who practically invented an alterna-style that later flowered into the work of artists like Ben Harper, Anthony David and India.Arie, who even named her breakthrough CD "Acoustic Soul."
Of all the Withers worshipers, none has created a more organic and credible corollary to the original than has Amos Lee on his latest CD. It provides an ideal survey of the nuances of acoustic soul, hitting its ironic mix of earthy and erudite. Lee has circled this style for over half a decade, dating back to his 2005 self-titled debut. But only on this fourth effort has he nailed it.
He had help from producer Joey Burns of the band Calexico. Burns gave Lee's CD a consistent sound, using his own group as the backing band. Lee needed their anchoring, considering the range of genres his music draws from. There's everything from R&B to pop to gospel to country to blues to jazz, a virtual round robin of American roots styles. Calexico even anoints a few tracks with Tex-Mex horns.
"Cup of Sorrow" takes inspiration from the Stanley Brothers' country gospel while "Jesus" mines its blues cousin. "Hello Again" has as much smooth jazz flow as a '70s George Benson hit.
Country music gets an extra nod, via guest stars Lucinda Williams and Willie Nelson. But the most important through lines arrive in the consistent appeal of the melodies and in Lee's vocals.
His tone may remind some of James Taylor, but Lee has far more changeable phrasing, moving from down-home funky in "Violin" to '70s pop smooth in "Flower." The latter could have been a Withers single. Yet it's the essential timbre of Lee's voice that most impresses. It's both sweet and burned: a vocal brûlée.
For all the warmth in Lee's vocals, his lyrics can be vengeful. In "Hello Again" he relishes the wear in the face of an ex-lover. In "Windows Are Rolled Down" he warns a woman who chooses a career over him what she's in for. (He sings from experience.)
Mostly, though, Lee sings of his own transience, epitomized by the classic troubadour anthem "El Camino." He reprises the song in the finale, refiguring it as a stripped-down duet with Nelson. While Willie colors the notes, Lee shows how lean he can be, in the process capturing acoustic soul's rare mix of the spare and the deep.
1 El Camino
2 Windows Are Rolled Down
5 Stay With Me
6 Out of the Cold
8 Hello Again
9 Learned a Lot
10 Cup of Sorrow
11 Clear Blue Eyes
12 Behind Me Now / El Camino Reprise