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Amos Lee: Mission Bell

| January 26, 2011 | 7 Comments

For Amos Lee, the key to his fourth album, Mission Bell, was time—taking the time to reflect, to write, and to record songs that lived up to his own expectations.

“My last two records were a little rushed, because I was touring so much and running around a lot,” he says. “On this one, I took a year and a half and I just sat at home and wrote. I spent more time alone with these songs than I ever did in the past,” he continues, “which I think was really helpful. It was like going to a yard sale or a thrift store—you go through the first time and you might see something, but then you have to keep going back and forth because you always find something else there.”

The result is Lee’s richest and most fully formed album to date. Mission Bell, which was produced by Joey Burns of the acclaimed band Calexico, displays both range and cohesion, an array of emotions unified by Lee’s eclectic taste and distinctive vocals. With a remarkable set of guests—including Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), James Gadson, Priscilla Ahn, and Pieta Brown—and the musical backing of Calexico, the album marks the arrival of Amos Lee as a mature artist who continues to explore his musical and thematic interests.

Songs like “Windows are Rolled Down” and “Flower” capture moments that are achingly personal, while “Stay” and “Out of the Cold” speak to Lee’s own confrontations with mortality, growing out of experiences with his own fans and performing at hospitals as part of the Musicians On Call program.

“There’s a real spirituality and searching element to a lot of these songs,” says Lee, who has evolved into one of the most important and prolific songwriters of our time, a point that’s driven home by the presence of legends such as Lucinda Williams and Willie Nelson, who were eager to interpret Lee’s songs.

“Great songwriters don’t come around that often,” states Nelson. “Amos is an exceptional artist, a true story teller, unique to his generation.” Williams was similarly impressed: “Amos Lee knows how to use his voice to tell a story with a hint of mystery as he does so beautifully in the compelling ‘Clear Blue Eyes.’”

Since the release of the Amos Lee album in 2005, the Philadelphia-born and –based former schoolteacher has been one of his generation’s most celebrated songwriters. After being named one of Rolling Stone’s “Top 10 Artists to Watch,” Lee quickly went on to tour with such giants as Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Paul Simon, and Elvis Costello. His next two albums—Supply and Demand (2006) and Last Days at the Lodge (2008)—continued to extend his audience and his reputation, and his songs appeared in numerous films and television shows.

Mission Bell is a dramatic leap forward for Amos Lee’s music, but it also feels like the first step in a new creative journey. The collaborations on the album have clearly opened up new horizons for the singer-songwriter. “The idea of playing and singing with other people is really interesting to me at this point in my career,” he says. “I’ve spent a lot of time focused on just doing this thing with my guitar, and there’s no reason not to open it up.”

Category: Be Heard Jukebox Archive

Comments (7)

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  1. Beth Norred says:

    I am totally in love with your music.. It is Fantastic, as you are. You are WOWING all of my friends i play my music for. they have all went and purchased your music for themselves.. Thank you for the Beautiful songs…Keep Pushing..

  2. Christy Kay says:

    You are amazing! love your sound! It is Beautiful!

  3. Susan says:

    You have grown so much as a musician and song writer. Your music is rich. I have been to most of your concerts. I am a hospice nurse and when I’ve had a tough shift I will listen to your music.It makes me smile. I will see you in Minnesota. Thanks for the music.

  4. AMarie0908 says:

    Excellent musician and songwriter! I was lucky enough to see him perform Mission Bell in NYC. I am happy to see Amos Lee getting the credit and attention he deserves!

  5. Lydia says:

    Hey Mimi — the place to click on is up there right below his picture where it says CD-A-DAY Giveaway, and it’ll take you to the Sweepstakes page on Facebook. Let me know if you need any other help, and good luck — I’m pullin’ for ya!

  6. Mimi says:

    Not sure where to enter the contest to win a copy of Mission Bell…I hope this is the way!

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