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Cirque Du Soleil
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Cirque Du Soleil
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Jim Pearce
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Ralph Towner
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Amos Lee
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Julius Curcio
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"Come Alive"
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Rising Stars [Issue #13]
Amos Lee: Tune Teacher
By Dave Lewis
Amos Lee (CD Blue Note)

Philly-based Amos Lee, carrying the torch of 1970s singer-songwriters with more than just a dash of soul influence, releases his self-titled first album on Blue Note records this March

At 27, Lee has smoothly made the transition from working stiff (until just recently, he taught elementary school in his native Pennsylvania) to up-and-coming rock sensation. Benefiting from positive word-of-mouth and having fans in high places - Bob Dylan and Norah Jones have both featured Lee as a concert opener - Lee’s debut is being met with high anticipation.

A University of South Carolina grad, Lee started writing songs at 18. He continued to create music while teaching, until music just started to take over his life. “Once I stopped teaching I was like alright, I’m gonna give this thing a go,” Lee remembered, “and try to work being a professional musician. It was just a slow burn.”

After a brief jaunt through the Midwest showcasing his new disc, Lee recently landed a monster gig: opening for Dylan and Merle Haggard on a seven-city theater tour. The trip includes multiple-night stands in Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles. He’ll also take on the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin in between that tour’s dates.

Clearly influenced by Dylan, John Prine, and other folkies, as well as ‘70s soul artists like Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder, Lee brandishes a sometimes giddy/sometimes dark sound that’s groove-oriented enough for the John Mayer-Jason Mraz crowd, but sultry enough for late night bar playlists. Lee’s adept guitar picking combines with his smooth voice to create a unique folk-soul sound.

The disc’s range, from the bluesy “Dreamin’” to the catchy shuffle of “Give it Up,” indicates Lee’s unwillingness to stay in a musical rut.

“When I was a kid I listened to a lot of R&B and hip-hop,” Lee explained. “As I got older, I started getting into soul music and folk music and jazz and stuff like that. But growing up I was a kid who just liked whatever.”

Lee’s taste may have changed as he got older, but he still allows all kinds of music to inform his sound. “I listen to everything now,” he claimed. “I have an iPod, so I just listen to whatever the hell comes on. I’ve got my whole record collection in there.”

While his iPod rotates all the right tunes, Lee doesn’t let inspiration turn into imitation. In the studio or onstage, he just plays whatever comes out. “I try not to worry too much about if I’m sounding like somebody or if I don’t sound like somebody,” Lee said, “I just kind of write the songs and hopefully they can speak on their own.”

Amos Lee
Blue Note

Tune Teacher Amos Lee Amos Lee

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