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Amos Lee’s Mission Bell a Songwriting Feat

Amos Lee's new album Mission Bell is a masterful display of songwriting. Amos Lee's new album Mission Bell is a masterful display of songwriting.

On his fourth studio full-length, Mission Bell, singer-songwriter Amos Lee comes through with an album of personal and passionate tunes. The record hints deftly at country, folk, and R&B influence without becoming incoherent in its fusion of genres. The work here is masterful, each movement crafted to articulate what is most essential in the song – Lee’s voice and lyrics. With contributions from some of the heaviest hitting alt-country artists past and present, including Lucinda Williams, Iron & Wine, Calexico, and Willie Nelson, it’s no wonder that this one comes off without a hitch.

The album opens with “El Camino,” the record’s strongest track. The playing is perfectly understated, a fine showcase for Lee’s staggering voice. The album’s final track features a reprise of “El Camino” that is a duet with Willie Nelson, which bookends the album nicely, bringing the experience of listening to Mission Bell from beginning to end to a rewarding full circle.

There are other classic type singer-songwriter ditties on Mission Bell, like the gently swinging “Violin,” “Stay With Me,” and “Learned A Lot.” And although Lee moves adeptly through the album touching on a variety of influences, he’s at his best when he stays close to home with tracks like these.

Deviations like “Hello Again” and the raucous blues-cum-gospel track “Jesus” are less successful. The R&B track “Flower” is much more convincing, recalling the roots of the genre, which sometimes get lost in the modern day of auto-tuned electronic music. But Lee nails the down-home thing best, and the record’s other tracks serve as short detours or rest stops before getting back to business.

Amos Lee is an anomaly of the modern day for a few reasons. He didn’t start playing guitar or writing songs until adulthood, and even completed a college degree and taught elementary school before changing his career. The Philadelphia-based musician then recorded an EP, which caught the right ears, and the rest is history in the making.

Mission Bell is Amos Lee’s third full-length, and it’s another finely crafted collection of songs from one of the modern greats. The knockout guests like Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Calexico, and Iron & Wine only confirm the greatness of the alt-country flavored record. For fans of mellow, sincere, and moving music, Amos Lee is dream come true. Very few songwriters are able to capture what Lee does, and many of those greats are past their prime. Lee is still a little uneven, but getting better all the time. And when he's at his best, he's flawless.

El Camino is one of the best songs on Amos Lee's new album, Mission Bell.


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Last modified on Monday, 15 October 2012 15:47

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