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Amos Lee - Mission Bell

Mission Bell sees Amos Lee and his all-star cast of contributors set their sights on commercial domination.

Saturday, 6. April 2013  -  by  David Hayter
Photo credits Kris Krug

Mission Bell, Amos Lee’s fourth studio LP, is the singer’s most conscious attempt to date at positioning himself as 21st century America’s definitive singer/song writer. To fulfil this grand ambition Amos Lee has called upon the genre’s young starlets, its gate keepers, and its artistic innovators.

Firstly Lee has maintained his reputation for playing it fast and loose with producers; this time ditching veteran producer Don Was in favour of Joey Burns of Calexico. Sadly those hoping Burns would bring the eerily beautiful soundscapes of Carried To Dust to Lee’s latest work will be sorely disappointed; as Mission Bell glides with a smooth, but entirely predictable, populist sheen.

Joining Burns are a series of high profile guests; Willie Nelson adds the gritty integrity of age to album closer “El Camino Reprise” while Lucinda Williams does her best to add character to the pallid “Clear Blue Eyes” and Priscilla Ahn’s croon softly bolsters “Stay With Me”.

Sam Bean (one of Guitar Planet’s Top Ten Guitarist Of The 21st Century) proves the most profitable addition on the gorgeous “Violin”; a track that marries the cosy waltz of Lee to a hauntingly layered arrangement that poignantly lingers and elegantly shimmers.

Mission Bell however is too eager to please, hopping between radio ready folk pop (“Windows Rolled Down”, “Flower”), paint by numbers soul (“Jesus”), and gentle jaunts (“Cup Of Sorrow”). Every sound he attempts has a distinctly indistinct flavour, and despite some genuinely touching moments (“Out In The Cold”, “Violin”,), Lee rarely captures the emotional or artistic zeitgeist.

Instead he’s happy to play it safe, occupying the well trodden middle ground. Fortunately for Lee there are millions of people who will relate to these pleasant and gentle ditties; which are certain to satisfy, but unlikely to thrill.

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