Amos Lee: Last Days at the Lodge

Photo: Marina Chavez

Time for Lee to spread his soulful wings and gently soar with this crop of literate story-songs lightly gilded with broadstroke orchestral flourishes, shrapnel-sharp guitar, and R&B grooves.

Amos Lee

Last Days at the Lodge

Label: Blue Note
US Release Date: 2008-06-24
UK Release Date: Available as import

After three years of being celebrated in the press as the male Norah Jones, it was obviously time for Philadelphia's Amos Lee to spread his soulful wings and gently soar. And that's just what the singer/songwriter does on his third studio album in as many years. With heavyweights like Muscle Shoals' veteran keyboard player Spooner Oldham (think Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" or Aretha Franklin at her mid-'60s height) and James Gadson, formerly with the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, on drums, providing some funky grist to the mill, Last Days at the Lodge builds upon the folksy, sweet soul sophistication of Lee's previous outings. The intimate story-songs that made up the performer's laid-back, self-titled debut in 2005 and 2006's Supply and Demand, several of which have appeared on some of our favorite TV shows, are still in evidence (see the lush "Won't Let Me Go" and wistful "It Started to Rain"). This time, though, his heartfelt tales of melancholy introspection, cheating women, and jealous lovers have been lightly gilded with broadstroke orchestral flourishes, shrapnel-sharp guitar, and R&B grooves.

The fuller sound could be a by-product of hiring Don Was, founding member of Detroit's left-field funksters Was (Not Was) and prolific producer, to helm. However, it's more likely the result of all that time on the road spent steadily honing his craft as a support act for several big names. Because, let's face it, when you perform in front of audiences who are already anticipating the moment Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, or Bob Dylan tune up, you better bring something more to the table than the stripped-down backing track to the previous evening's epsiode of E.R. or the disappointingly short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip -- never mind that your first two albums have sold in excess of half a million copies.

Therefore, when the former elementary school teacher implores on the hook-laden, country-soul opener "Listen" to do just that, it's eyes forward and ears pricked because Lee has powerful tales to tell. The lead-off track is a stark warning -- whether of life on the road, or the exploitation of the poor, with lines like "Listen, you can hear them hounds / A callin' off in the distance" floating over piping organ and fluid guitar as the singer pleads on the chorus "You can hear the angels fallin'", you just know there's trouble aplenty.

But there's a veritable crop of literate story-songs to choose from on the 11 original cuts whose lyrics are far easier to comprehend, although no less troubling. Take your pick from the weathered, shuffling country-blues of "Truth", a tale of brutal revenge and incarceration, or the smooth, funky wah-wah groove on "Jails and Bombs", a Motown-flavored piece of social commentary that has Lee's high-flying falsetto taking it to the church.

Nevertheless, there is one song which truly stands out from the pack. "Street Corner Preacher" is a powerful piece of finger-picked country-R&B that realistically describes a reformed jailbird who is "Back in the neighbourhood / Working for the saviour" only to rediscover the same "child soldiers" dodging bullets and sirens between the burnt-out inner city buildings. Sadly, it appears not much has changed in America since the release of Marvin Gaye's classic song-cycle of urban and social degeneration, What's Going On, in 1971.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.