Amos Lee finds his voice
5 Out of 5 Stars
Amos Lee's "Last Days at The Lodge" had me a bit worried. His first album to leave me unsatisfied, it was over-produced by Don Was. Was seemed to be trying to squeeze Amos into some sort of super-slick and commercialized pop-blues, much like Was did for Bonnie Raitt's blockbuster "Nick Of Time." But Lee was never as polished as Raitt, not should he be. On "Mission Bell," Lee's ultimate breaktrhough and first Top Ten album, reclaims the title of young buck singer-songwriter and moves him into such company as Ray LaMontagne and Iron & Wine's Sam Beam.
Intimate and easy but without the cream, "Mission Bell" bristles with staw folk and burning blues. Producer Joey Burns of Calexico (who has also collaborated with Beam) gives the guitar room to roam the prairie. He then pulls in some superb guests to sing, like Lucinda Williams and Willie Nelson, while Lee holds his own with both. In fact, this may be the most natural Lee has sounded on album in his short career. Lee is pulling deep from his soul background, making a gospel wail like "Jesus" or Grateful Dead sound-alike "Cup Of Sorrow" ring with honest feeling. That is not to sat he's been faking it before, but sure sounds more grown up than even the excellent "Supply and Demand" could have.
This is Lee's move into classic turf. With "Mission Bell," he is now at the forefront of new American Singer Songwriters, and this is one of my favorite albums of 2011.