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Tunes review: Amos Lee – Mission Bell

By Meriha Beaton, Staff Contributor

 

It’s been two and a half years since Amos Lee’s last album, but the singer- songwriter has finally got his groove back. His fourth album, Mission Bell, returns to the soulful-folk sound he is known for, with a gospel inspired twist.

After his last album, Last days at the Lodge, Lee needed to pour everything he had into Mission Bell. Although it had a few good tracks, Last Days at the Lodge did not meet the potential Lee is capable of, with unmemorable lyrics and a lackluster sound. Mission Bell is reminiscent of the Lee that produced such powerful songs as “Seen it all Before” and “Night Train.”

Thankfully, he hasn’t strayed too far away from his roots. He knows what works for him and has stuck to it. Some might complain that he isn’t versatile enough, as he stays within the same folk genre with each album—but when you are so damn good in this genre, why stray? That being said, Lee has the tools to be versatile within his genre. His soulful sounding voice next to folk-inspired acoustics create a genre of his own. In some songs he plays up his blue-grass side, while in others he flexes his gospel muscles.

The songs “El Camino” and “Violin” are classic Amos, with his powerful voice paired next to catchy acoustics. Tracks like “Windows Rolled Down” and “Stay with Me” are ballads that showcase Lee’s gospel-inspired voice. “Learned a lot” has a lot of his classic style, but introduces an electric guitar, and the song “Flower” is his token pop song with an upbeat sound and happy-go-lucky lyrics.  There is a bit of a slump in the middle of the album, with three forgettable tracks. But every album is allowed to have its duds.

Lee has shown how far he has come with this album. His song “Clear Blue Eyes” features folk veteran Lucinda Williams, while the track “El Camino Reprise” is shared with the one and only Willie Nelson. The nomadic singer-songwriter has proven that he can hold his own next to the greatest in folk.

Mission Bell is a result of Lee doing what he does best—producing music that feeds the soul.

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