Amos Lee – Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song
Amos Lee goes Nashville? You better believe it! Travelling down to Music City to record with Jay Joyce and enlisting guests like Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin, Jerry Douglas and Mickey Raphael, Lee blends his Philadelphia soul with a little twang to beguiling effect.
Such is the strength of Lee’s musical personality, the Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song does not sound like someone being influenced by Nashville (as is so often the case when people go there to record) but rather influencing Nashville, with both parties genuinely invigorated by the exchange. There’s a whiff of classic country-soul from the immediately captivating opening track, ‘Johnson Blvd’, pedal steel guitar helping to sweep the gentle vocal melody high into the air.
But the great thing about this album is that it never stays still long enough for you to pin it down. It genuinely sounds like the musicians (this is the first Amos Lee album to feature his four-piece touring band) were so inspired by the quality of the songs to contribute only what was best for each, that they could ignore stylistic convention.
While a song like ‘Tricksters, Hucksters and Scamps’ leaps about in old school string band style, nary a modern element to be noted, ‘High Water’ grinds out all wiry gristle and grit, while ‘Loretta’ leaps out of the tracklisting, a joyous, playful twist on classic Memphis soul. The first time I heard the album played in full was on a radio station in Memphis and it took me almost ‘til the end of the album to realise all the songs I’d just listened to were by the one artist.
There are some deadset classic Americana ballads on the appropriately titled album, ‘Chill In The Air’ blooming one part dark, one part pretty, one part modern, one part timeless – with Alison Krauss helping out on backing vocals; ‘Dresser Drawer’ distilled to potent essence.
While songs like ‘Indonesia’ and ‘The Man Who Wants You’ wash over you all temperate sunny soul, they are still masterful productions – there really is not a weak moment on the record. Look no further – here is the soundtrack to your summer.