First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2005, Volume 12, #3
Written by John Metzger
Amos Leeís life is about to become far more complicated. Not only has he recorded and released his major label debut for Blue Note, but he also has been tapped to perform on a tour that is being headlined by Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard. Thatís quite a change from the days when he taught elementary school in Philadelphia and tended bar at the cityís quaint, folk venue Tin Angel. The pressure of such widespread attention is undoubtedly enormous, but based upon the strength of his eponymous, new outing, Lee will handle it just fine. Indeed, the albumís sparse arrangements allow its songs to float past with an unassuming, easy-going charm that frequently recalls the gentle sweetness and warm intimacy of label-mate Norah Jonesí efforts, so much so that it isnít terribly surprising to discover that Jones as well as several of her collaborators (Kevin Breit, Adam Levy, and Lee Alexander) had a hand in crafting the project. Though there are differences between each artistsí approach ó Jones gives her gentle folk tunes an aura of light jazz, while Lee vocally shades his compositions with the essence of soul stars such as Al Green, Sam Cooke, and Bill Withers ó the result is largely the same. Unfortunately, this is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the collection radiates an elegant, understated beauty. On the other hand, Lee spends so much time showcasing his softer side, that he often neglects to venture into livelier fare. Sure, Give It Up, which begins where Withersí Use Me Up concludes, embraces its elastic groove, but both the perky Lies of a Lonely Friend and the bluegrass-kissed bounce of Bottom of the Barrel seem more restrained than perhaps Lee would like them to be. In other words, one is left with a nagging feeling that his debut has been designed ever so carefully to take advantage of the formula that propelled Jonesí rise to stardom, and because of its overly calculated ambience, it fails to highlight the full scope of Leeís extraordinary talent. Yet, even with that in mind, itís still a passionately performed and wholly captivating set that leaves one wondering what else he might have hidden up his sleeve. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Amos Lee is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box