Amos Lee Last Days At The Lodge

The two previous albums from this Philly-based singer-songwriter have proved popular with the latte-sipping Starbucks crowd. Critically, he’s been compared to a male Norah Jones (she was a key early career booster) and viewed as a pleasant, but not deeply consequential, artist. He ups the artistic ante here by recruiting superstar producer Don Was and working with an all-star band that includes guitarist Doyle Bramhall, Jr., bassist Pino Palladino (the Who) and Muscle Shoals veteran keyboardist Spooner Oldham. He won’t win any lyric writing awards for "Baby I Want You ("don’t leave me out here in the cold, don’t you know it’s your hand I want to hold”), but redeems himself with better wordsmithery on "Street Corner Preacher” and "Listen” ("the poor are victims of the gun and gavel”). His frequent forays into social commentary are of uneven quality but there’s a higher success rate with more specific tunes, such as "Kid” and "What’s Been Going On.” Lee’s trump card remains his sweetly soulful voice, a lovely instrument that often evokes the spirit of Bill Withers. Though not necessarily an album to lodge deep in the brain, this is an enjoyable effort. (Blue Note)