Amos Lee – Mission Bell
I’ve never really listened to Amos Lee before. I know several people that have recommended it and really love it. I even have a friend that dates someone in his band. And because she asked me to, I checked his music out a few years ago but didn’t care for it. Honestly, I’m not sure that I gave it enough of a chance. I’ve gotten more into finding new music and expanding my appreciation for all things music since then.
So when Mission Bell was released, I decided to check it out and give it a real listen. And I really enjoyed it. In fact, I’m going back and listening to the older albums and finding things I like there too. But that’s old stuff and you’re reading this to get my opinion of the new stuff so I’ll get back to that. If you’re a big fan of Amos, some of these things won’t be new to you and you’ll probably think “duh, you dumbass” to a few things but please forgive me, I’m new to his music so give me a little time to catch up.
I really enjoyed the mixture of sounds here. There’s soul, blues and maybe just a hint of r&b. He’s got a nice voice and it’s a bit distinctive. I’m not going to be able to describe it but it really fits nicely with the music. I didn’t really expect to like much and figured that I would probably have to go through several tracks to find something I enjoyed. To my surprise, I made it through five songs before I found one that I DIDN’T completely enjoy. Not that it’s terrible, I just liked the first five that much.
The album opens up with “El Camino” and it had me excited to hear more. He almost sounds like James Taylor here. For the regular fans of Amos, that may be a common known fact but I didn’t know this before. I’m sure I’m not discovering anything new here. He’s surely sounded like Mr. Taylor before.
While I was excited by the first track, the second one had me hooked. “Windows Are Rolled Down” is probably my favorite track on the album. It’s a great song about moving on and I can’t wait for warmer weather so I can crank this song up with my windows down.
“Violin” seems to be about being stuck or needing some help and wondering why that help isn’t coming when you need it most. It’s a beautiful song and I really loved the piano at the end. It almost feels strange to say that I liked the piano in a song called violin but oh well.
Next up is “Flower” and it seems to be a love song. It’s another great song and fun to sing along with. I’m hoping that this is one that will be released as a single because I think it would do well on the radio. I can hear quite a few instruments on this track and I always appreciate some trumpets thrown in.
“Stay With Me” is another love song and the title explains enough. I like that Amos goes through a couple of ranges with his voice and he does a really nice job of singing. I’d like to hear this one live and I can imagine the crowd will sing along at the end.
It’s at this point in the album that I hit a track or two that I didn’t care for as much so I’m going to skip around a little and talk about the tracks I liked most. “Hello Again” also uses trumpets and has a latin feel. It is about running into someone you used to want and they’ve changed so much since you’ve last seen them that those feelings just aren’t there anymore.
“Learned A lot” is about suffering through a breakup. But at some point, you need to learn from the experience and get back up and move on. As hard as it is, you can’t get hung up on someone that no longer wants you.
Amos gets a little country on “Cup Of Sorrow”. I didn’t like the track as much the first time I listened but now I do. There’s more nice piano in the background and he pulls off the country feel. He seems to be able to handle several genres of music with no problem.
That does it for the tracks I enjoyed most. As for the other songs, I tend to skip them when I play through the album. There are different reasons for why I don’t care for them. “Out Of The Cold” is just too boring to me. It’s slow and just never seems to take off. “Jesus” is a bluesy-gospel tune but it feels more like an interlude or a space-filler than an actual song. “Clear Blue Eyes” brings in Lucinda Williams for a duet but I just didn’t care for her verse or voice. I would have liked it much better if Amos sang the entire song himself. “Behind Me Now” is another slow song that just seemed boring to me and I couldn’t quite get into it.
The album does end with a different version of “El Camino” and while I like the original version, this one brings in Willie Nelson and I’ve never been able to listen to Willie. If you’re a fan of his, I’m sorry but it’s just not for me. I could have easily done without this extra version.
So I liked eight out of thirteen songs, that’s not bad at all. It’s definitely worth checking out. I think many listeners will come away impressed with Amos’ voice, as I did. I enjoyed the different sounds and types of music as well. A little variety isn’t a bad thing and I don’t always want to hear the same thing over and over and over for an entire album.
You won’t be cranking any of these songs at a party but several could work for an outdoor bbq or for just hanging out. There are some nice melodies and soulful songs on this album. It won’t be for everyone I’m sure but give it a real listen. You may find out that you’ve been missing out on his music all this time like me. And let’s be honest, do you really want to be like me? Yeah, I didn’t think so.