Just got this single in from Blue Note Records, who are thankfully still pressing 7-inches, from Philly native Amos Lee. He's got a mess of releases on Blue Note and has put in time on tour with Nora Jones and his latest full length, which includes the A-Side, Windows Rolled Down is backed and produced by Calexico, and features Sam Beam and Willie Nelson among others. He's definitely caught the ear and attention of whole lot of talented musicians willing to put their support behind this fourth full length.
This single has two tracks from the great Amos Blue Note vaults, "Windows are Rolled Down" and exclusive B-Side track, "Angel".
The A-Side, "Windows are rolled down" has this acoustic opening which I'm sure points to the origins of this singer/songwriter track, Amos writes with that classic structure in place before moving on to these lonesome arrangements. It's the key to a fully realized big studio track like this. Make sure you've got the foundation...but of course those plans have been drafted time and time again by Amos. The track is a little but country with the quiet slide guitar that rolls in, a far off groundwork of distortion and a piano riffing off this acoustic melody.
The lyric overall describes a hopeful scene even with the vocal 'I'm fixing to die'... it's all in Amos' classy delivery, a little raspy authenticity working to ground this massive arrangement.
The lyric takes place in a car of course - the steering wheel, the roads - ingredients for a sad rear-view-mirror-look at how you ended up in this current situation with the windows rolled down through the pouring rain and blazing sun. Imagine those external forces don't matter, you can't ignore it, leave it all outside, while you're trapped in the dry, climate controlled interior. The journey is going to be made in the middle of it all, taking the good with the bad. You can't shelter yourself.
"Angel" on the B-Side is somewhere between Motown that sad '60s soul, Amos works between smooth vibrato and gravelly feeling around the rimshots and heavy reverb. This kind of vocal is classic and I'm mystified how songs like this are crafted out of thin air, independent from the minimal instrumentation, which put together by Calexico, it's no surprise they hold back and leave room for the undisputed star of the performance.
This is an empty streets song, going back to an era and geography of real soul, to mention the great Otis Redding is going to be a mistake but that hint of horns in this arrangement is all I can compare it to. There's also hints of country here like Vic Chestnut or Townes Van Zandt but an altogether different unique kind of tortured vocal.
An insanely refined sad ballad on the jukebox.
Not sure where you can purchase this heavy frisbee of vinyl, but send me an email for a chance to win an autographed copy of this, thanks to Blue Note who says:
Amos Lee has completed recording of Mission Bell, his fourth album for EMI's Blue Note Records, and his richest and most fully formed album to date. Mission Bell, which was produced by Joey Burns of the acclaimed band Calexico, displays both range and cohesion, an array of emotions unified by Lee's eclectic taste and distinctive vocals. With a remarkable set of guests-including Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), Priscilla Ahn, Pieta Brown, and James Gadson-and the musical backing of Calexico, the album marks the arrival of Amos Lee as a mature artist who continues to explore his musical and thematic interests.