Amos Lee may not be the name on everyone’s lips right now, but that doesn’t mean, with a few pushes in the right direction, he might soon be.
Already he has the hand of young Norah Jones guiding him along the path to household acceptance. For since discovering the 27-year-old singer songwriter, she has invited him to tour both the US and the UK with her and even loaned out her digits to tap the piano keys on two tracks on this debut album.
It’s easy to see musically why the two get along. Both have smooth, laidback voices, yet manage to make songs that are both rich and evocative. And although Norah packs a stronger punch (if indeed these two concepts can be put together at all), a night with the two of them could quite possibly be the most intense night of mellow minimalism you have encountered in your life.
Perhaps if Norah hadn’t leant a helping hand Amos Lee would still be waiting tables for rent while gigging in every other spare moment. For that’s what his everyday agenda was when Norah stumbled across the ex-teacher from Philadelphia.
“People tell me to just keep dreaming, that’s just what I’m gonna do,” he sings on an outrageously soulful Dreamin’. And good job he did because surely his frank yet inspired lyrics would have been wasted on the kids.
Drawing on influences from soul legends Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers at his high points, Amos Lee’s intimate voice and agile acoustic plucks whisk you away to a world of inner beauty and stillness. Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight and Black River are Lee at his most comfortable and have a subtle enough catchiness to entice and hold new listeners.
“Some people they claim, if you get enough fame, you live over the rainbow,” he sings on Black River. True fame may not have hit Lee as yet, but sweetness such as this surely was created in the ether of one.
But at his lowest Amos Lee is an Eagle Eye Cherry without the gimmicky factor. The album sometimes snags on hints of blues, Bottom of the Barrel licks on a country root or two, but these distinguishable tracks are far between.
Which leaves an irritating doubt at the back of your mind – can something be too nice to be noticed? Can a laidback album stop itself from slipping out of sight? Sometimes, do not the most easy going of people need to square up to you, really catch your eye or even smack you round the face before they make a lasting impression?