Having opened for acts such as Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello and Norah Jones, Amos Lee has been buzzing around music legends for a while now. But it’s one thing to open for an array of renowned artists and another to actually carve out a career for yourself which will stand the test of time. With Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, Amos Lee is on his way to doing just that.
With producer Jay Joyce of Nashville fame at the helm and an array of musicians at the top of their game on the record, it was inevitable that with Amos’ song writing ability, this album was going to be a bit special. With 2011’s critically acclaimed album Mission Bell there was a lot to live up to and I’m happy to say that expectations have been exceeded, with a lovely mix of folksy, bluesy, country tracks that tug at the soul and more often than not leave a smile on the face.
Early track Stranger is a prime example of this, a bluegrass/country hybrid with Amos’ vocals on top form, belting out classic bluesy lyrics in his warm toned country voice. You can almost imagine yourself walking down a train track with nothing but the clothes on your back and the sun on your face. Alison Krauss features on track Chill In The Air, a nice ballad of a song which pulls at the heartstrings and leaves you wanting more. “The morning came like a freight train bearing down on me from a thousand miles a way” sings Amos, sounding as though he’s been singing these songs beyond his age.
High Water is a change in direction and adds another string to Amos’ bow, starting off with some Kashmir style drums leading into a dark and sinister intro with distorted voice and harmonica reminiscent of The Black Keys. This is one of the many tracks on the album which stand out because of the strength of Amos’ voice coupled with the beautiful production from Jay Joyce.
Amos Lee manages to pull off the transition between old and new sounds, shown by the traditional country ditty of Plain View, straight after the contemporary sounding Loretta complete with Jay Z style guitar plinks and a very catchy chorus. This is no mean feat with many artists failing to unite the different sounds so seamlessly throughout their albums.
To be honest there’s not too much wrong with this record. The lyrics could be considered a little unoriginal, but this can be forgiven with the style of music. Country and blues is renowned for simple overused tales of travel and love, and that’s what gives it some of its charm, its not trying to be clever, just honest. The album may find it hard to hit the high end of the charts outside of the USA, being a distinctively American sounding album which doesn’t always work abroad. This shouldn’t take away from the fact Amos Lee has created a great album with a great producer and great musicians, a triumph and another notch in his belt while striving to join his peers at the highest level.
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