Reviews, essays, and reflections on jazz and culture.
"If you ain't got it in you, you can't blow it out." — Louis Armstrong
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Amos Lee: Mission Bell
I enjoyed Amos Lee's Blue Note debut, a bunch of albums back. He's not a jazz guy, not even as jazzy as Norah Jones, but he was playing with Jones's band and had a super-appealing voice and some good tunes. Blue Note had itself another winner, all the better to finance more Joe Lovano albums!
But on his fourth disc, Mission Bell, Lee seems as generic as he can get. A little lite-soul, a whole lot of mellow. It's 1977 again, but without the awesome band that would have been on the latest Jackson Brown or Paul Simon disc. And sure as hell without the songs those guys were writing.
Mission Bell was produced by Joey Burns of the band Calexico, and that's the band that provides the backing here. He has also called in some guests—Willy Nelson, showing up Lee on a reprise of one song and Lucinda Williams, wasted on another. The big-name guests just underline that this disc, that these tunes, don't stand well on their own. This is a very "mellow" album. Mushy, sweet, soft. The bad kind of mellow. Making Norah Jones seems edgy—that kind of mellow.
And I read yesterday that the album had debuted at "number one" on some chart or other. [Sigh.]