Amos Lee Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song

Amos Lee Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song
5
Lee's fifth album opens with "Johnson Blvd.," a collection of slow-moving images of America's recent economic and social decay. The song sets a dour tone, which is slightly picked up by the ensuing banjo-driven "Stranger," casting Lee back in his familiar role as a lonesome drifter. Unfortunately, it's one he's never been able to pull off convincingly. While the music on Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song alternates between these mournful ballads and hootenanny stomps, there's a hollowness that just can't be ignored. While Lee's attempts at exploring dark themes are noble, they're undercut by slick, middle-of-the-road production that winds up mocking the sounds Lee is intent on blending, evidenced by his blatant Al Green-like phrasing on "Loretta." He's unable to find his footing, whether as a blues, soul or country singer, and the end results are a bland pastiche of all three. (Blue Note)