Of course, chances are you won’t even notice this denser production value – it never overwhelms the yearning melodies, never intrudes on Lee’s incredibly supple, soulful voice. They’re all about serving the emotions of each song, and emotions are the key to Amos Lee’s melancholy troubadour persona. Which, I’ll admit, may not be for everybody.
I’ll also admit that wordsmithing isn’t Lee’s strong point: he falls back too often on the poetic shorthand of dark nights, unknown coasts, distant shores, and open roads. (How often does he need to describe the various floors he paces?)
But that’s the nitpicking critic talking. The fan will answer that the experience of listening to Mission Bell has nothing to do with parsing lyrics. It’s about swinging around the curves of “Windows Rolled Down,” swaying in the breeze of “Flower,” or diving through shimmering memory in “Hello Again.” It’s heart music, not head music, and Amos Lee – to this fan’s great relief — once again proves himself a master of the genre.