From what I gather he’s been around for awhile making his brand of folk-country music. After reading a bit more about him it’s apparent he and others classify his music as folk and R&B. That took me a bit by surprise, but I have the guilty pleasure of turning on R&B every once and a while too.
So when I got the chance to review the latest album Mission Bell from Amos Lee I figure “why not”?
This probably won’t be the best review of an Amos Lee album you’ll read especially if you’ve been a fan of him for awhile, but it’s my interpretation of his music as an outsider discovering his music.
Warning: Most of this will probably be based on how the music feels to me. I won’t look too much into the lyrics. Just a first listen this time.
Mission Bell – Amos Lee
1. El Camino
Normally this is the kind of song I’d turn on if I had to sit in my La-Z-Boy with a beer and think about my life. There are always the questionable decisions in life, but sometimes when you regret something you need to sit and think about it. That’s the mood I’m reminded of with El Camino – I’m not sure if that’s what Amos meant to have happen, but it’s where this song takes me. And that’s what music should do – take you somewhere emotionally. I love the horns toward the end. I’m not sure what song or kind of music they remind me of – Marty Robbins? – but they get my attention. It’s a good song.
2. Windows Are Rolled Down
Here we pick up the tempo. It’s a nice change after the first song. For a strange reason this song seems like it would fit in the scene of a road movie where a gang of friends hits the wide open on a road trip. As the gang rides along during the montage this song would be playing as they laugh and cheer while throwing their hands in the air. This song reminds me of high school and the good friends and good times I had back then. I’m not sure what it is about the image of rolling down the windows, but it gives me a sense of freedom and endless opportunity.
At first the voice seemed strained on this one. Then things settle down and the song comes together for me on the chorus. The emotion comes through in the vocal. The haunting of the music comes across and captures my attention. The song kind of builds up and it actually inspires me for a reason I can’t really understand. I’ll probably have to listen to this one more. It’s a cool song. It reminds me of songs I’ve heard before, but I can’t think of them specifically. Violin has its own feel though. It’s a cool arrangement.
I believe in the power of love and so does Amos Lee. This song reminds me of movies that take place in the ’70s and ’80s for some reason. The singer-songwriter comes out in this song. I love when the background singers come in for the chorus. The song gets taken to another level. Flower puts me in a good spirit and made me smile. A few of the musical things surprised me in this song – in a good way.
5. Stay With Me
Another slow tempo track here. A love song…it sounds like it the first time through. I’m bad at picking up what most songs are about the first time I listen. Stay With Me does sound like the kind of song a college guy would write for his girlfriend after he screws up. At least where I come from girls eat this up. It’s a good song though. It’d be a few steps up from that college-type song.
6. Out Of The Cold
This song has a dark feeling about it. I can’t quite pin down in the first listen just what it’s about, but the mood seems dark and I’m guessing the topic is as well. This song has a purpose and I’m not sure just what it is yet. When you hear it and interpret it please share your thoughts with me.
Some clapping at the beginning of this one. An interesting twist in the direction of the album, but I like it. This was the first time in the album I started rocking my head back and forth. The song takes a church-like hymn turn. It’s up tempo and a bit like the southern church music I have only seen on TV shows and in movies. It certainly has an interesting place on the album and I kinda like it.
8. Hello Again
I instantly think of James Taylor on this one. The entire album reminds me of the ’70s singer-songwriter stuff. My dad always listened to the easy listening rock of the ’70s and ’80s and I naturally was drawn to it since I wanted to be just like dad growing up for a period. The music at one point has that blowing wind sound. I’m not sure quite what that was but it got my attention.
9. Learned A Lot
There seems to be a lot of looking back in this album. Here we have a song that I think is about a couple breaking up. It’s either that or something that causes the narrator to think about the things he’s learned from a situation. The music puts you in the mood of thinking things were good, but you’re still feeling a bit down about how things worked out. I’ve been in those situations before. You feel down, but you’re trying to stay positive about everything.
10. Cup Of Sorrow
Cup Of Sorrow has the feel of a song that could have found a home in the top forty on country radio in the’90s. It reminds me of something that could have found maybe the 38th spot on the country charts during that time. It’s got a good beat and some rolling lyrics that tell a story. It’s the kind of song that’s forgotten by most, but remembered by a few hardcore country fans. There is some elements of Johnny Cash in this one – the positive side of life, the self examination, the folk music sound. It’s good.
11. Clear Blue Eyes w/Lucinda Williams
There is emotion in this song. It’s got feeling and power. That’s what is hitting me the most with the entire album – emotion in the vocals. This is a good duet for those who love folk music.
12. Behind Me Now/El Camino Reprise w/Willie Nelson
I was looking forward to this track from the moment I saw Willie Nelson. The song doesn’t disappoint. It caught me off guard and surprised me with the kind of song it was. It starts out slow, but builds a bit. Willie comes in one the second part of the song. It’s great to hear him as always. He fits right in with this kind of music – ’70s and ’80s singer-songwriter. He helped define the era after all. It’s a great way to end the collection.
Mission Bell is not the kind of album I would normally pick up. After listening to it once through I’m glad it was pointed in my direction. It’s the kind of music that puts me in certain situations. I looked back into life and remembered a few things about life. I don’t want to say this was a powerful album, but it spurred a few memories for me and I guess that takes a lot to happen.
I’ll say now – I’m a fan of Amos Lee.
For the right setting and the right mood, he hits it perfectly with his music.