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Amos Lee
Amos Lee
Blue Note Records
www.amoslee.com


It seems to me that there is a wealth of music out there stemming from a blues and folk tradition, which appeals almost exclusively to white people who drive Volvos or VW buses. Its as though anything lacking American Idol scale jumping and a hoopdie-shaking bass line may as well be Jimmy Buffet. Artists like Ben Harper are relegated to the post college crowd that fills the PBS Studio 4A. Amos Lee may well experience this double-edged sword due to his non-threatening approach. After all, NPR darling Norah Jones appears discreetly on a couple of tracks. It'd be a shame if that broom swept this gem under the carpet. I'd hate to see him suffer the humiliation of opening for Dave Matthews.

Sometimes you have to whisper to be heard. Amos Lee is going to appeal to the Jeff Buckley through Tony Rich fans, with his mostly acoustic R&B approach to romance and social idealism. In cases like "Keep It Loose..." they reside in the same song. Lee's one-in-a-million voice swings from vulnerable vibrato into a falsetto so smooth it'll wipe the melanoma off of Aaron Neville's melon. It's a deceivingly gentle style, as it soaks in and melds with your own body's chemistry to create an intense internal reaction. Sometimes the seductive voice slides up and, in a neat trick, morphs into Devin Greenwood's sweet sweet Hammond B3. As raucous as it gets is the Stevie Wonder-full soul of "Give It Up." The sweetly reverent "Arms Of A Woman" is a beautiful hymn to femininity in quiet gospel tones. "Black River" takes a redemptive spiritual and puts it on the rocks with a beer chaser. The radio-ready "Love In The Lies" fits neatly in the world class rock format between Lucinda Williams and Bruce Springsteen. There's even a bit of jazz befitting a Tuck & Patti arrangement.

The arrangements are simple, with well-placed accents of strings, mandolin and organs rising into the build. Delicate guitar picking and everyman lyrics reveal the artist indirectly the way the moon gives evidence of the sun. But his inflection and delivery are a more telling gauge of the man. The songs just get better with every flavor-packed spin. I don't think it would be out of line for Lee to start work on his Grammy acceptance speech.

-Ewan Wadharmi

Track Listing:
1. Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight
2. Seen It All Before
3. Arms Of A Woman
4. Give It Up
5. Dreamin'
6. Soul Suckers
7. Colors
8. Bottom Of The Barrel
9. Black River
10. Love In The Lies
11. All My Friends


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