Philly's self-described "folky R+B" performing songwriter Amos Lee dramatically reshapes and expands his sound for the revelatory fourth studio album Mission Bell arriving January 25 via Blue Note. With production and instrumental backing from Joey Burns and John Cavatino of acclaimed Americana band Calexico, there's a newfound languid spaciousness to what Lee calls Mission Bell's "searching element", a relaxed atmosphere that brings the dozen songs into focus even as his more urban elements adapt to the wide open aural territory. Even without the guest shots from Pieta Brown, Willie Nelson, Priscilla Ahn and Lucinda Williams this one would be a keeper.
"The musicality that those guys bring is just amazing," Lee says of Calexico. "It was especially nice to work with John and get a very different texture rhythmically. They're great at creating atmosphere--sonically, they brought a beautiful dimension into a lot of the songs, and helped them to expand and breathe more." On Mission Bell, even a song like "Cup of Sorrow", which Lee describes as a "gospel song", has a more gentle, countrified feel to it while the gorgeous "Windows Are Rolled Down" simply shines with tasteful grandeur. Stately lead single "El Camino", with subdued brass shadings, rich piano chords and Lee's husky vocals waltzes on tiptoes with graceful elegance, a luxuriant cross between ballad and earthy hymn.
Amos Lee - "Windows Are Rolled Down" (from Mission Bell)
Amos Lee - "El Camino" (from Mission Bell)