Supply and Demand
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2006, Volume 13, #10
Written by John Metzger
With Amos Lee, itís the voice that matters most. A golden, fluid instrument, it effortlessly glides among blues, soul, and gospel styles while conveying a wealth of emotion with each uttered phrase. It served him well on his self-titled debut, and itís certainly the highpoint of his follow-up Supply and Demand. He delivers Careless, for example, with a sense of heavyhearted weariness, while both the socially conscious Sympathize and the politically minded Freedom exude an air of frustration with the status quo. Yet, thereís a light that shines from within Leeís articulations, and it serves to brighten the darker undercurrents of his material by lending to it the hope that everything will turn out all right in the end.
The problem, however, is that the minimalist arrangements that frame Leeís songs frequently feel too comfortable and inconsequential. On his debut, he, more often than not, managed to rise above the tepid loveliness of the music by tapping into the understated earthiness of Bill Withersí work. Subtlety, however, is a difficult thing to master. With Supply and Demand, Lee takes an even safer approach by staying within a set of preordained boundaries, and the result is that he comes across like a softer version of Ben Harper. Not surprisingly, tunes like the radiant Shout Out Loud; the loose, roots-rock of Freedom; the swinging, old-time blues of Sweet Pea; and the buoyant title track fare best. Everywhere else on Supply and Demand, Lee traffics in tastefully unassuming pleasantries that seem to be tailored specifically to meet the undiscerning tastes of the Starbucks crowd. While that strategy succeeded in transforming Norah Jones into a star, itís likely to make Lee a mere footnote.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box