Thursday, August 7, 2008

Amos Lee brings relief to Hot-lanta

It was 90 degrees outside on the Atlanta streets, without much relief inside the Variety Playhouse. The sold out Amos Lee show that consisted of a crowd of all ages created a sort of still, hot air that at times made it difficult to breathe. However, when the headliner took to the stage and opened his show with Keep it Lose, Keep it Tight from his self-titled debut album, it was as if you were transported to a quaint coffee house sipping on a cafe au lait. It was like this all night, with Amos Lee taking you from coffee house, to smokey jazz bar, or the underbelly of a basement blues club. The singer/songwriter's three albums have been released to lukewarm reviews, while finding success on satellite and internet radio. But, for the live performance on a steamy Tuesday night, he created a refreshing cocktail made of 1 part jazz, 1 part blues, a splash of folk, topped off with a garnish of sensual soul.

Lee continued his show with songs from his sophmore album Supply and Demand with the upbeat song of the same name, to which you couldn't help but smile, then followed up with the entrancing Truth and Careless. This is one of the few performances where the artist doesn't need to make small talk with the audience to keep their attention. Amos Lee had the crowd in the palm of his hand since the beginning, and continued to enthrall them with an energizing Freedom, and even had them clapping along during Bottom of the Barrel. There is something in the John Mayer-esque way that Lee bobs his head in and out that keeps his fans asking for more.

Lee has a quiet charm about him, only pausing to have a few sips of water, change from acoustic to electric guitars, or update the crowd about new songs he's about to play. His third studio album, Live at the Lodge, keeps the same mellow sound as his previous ones. However, he did re-record Truth from his first album to create a newer plugged-in version of the tune. Songs like Kid, What's Been Going On, and Baby I Want You are almost filler songs in between his well known hits. But when Won't Let Me Go was being played, the song is so sexy that you half expect Barry White to come strolling on stage for a duet. The lines 'Stood around while you dated that old fool Marcus/Whole time I knew he wasn't no damn good for you/Guess it's true sometimes I know we can all be a little bit heartless/But tonight all I wanna do is make sweet love to you.' might make you want to grab the nearest guy or girl and find a dark corner, or even leave the show early for a late night at home if the music wasn't so addicting.

As the first few chords of Southern Girl were being strummed, every woman in the theater went up in screams. Every girl there imagined herself the subject of the musicians romantic fantasy. This was the start to a string of well known songs to wrap up the show. Fun diddies like Sweet Pea and Shout Out Loud made you dance in your seat, and the heart wrenching lyrics of Black River was felt deep in the soul of each individual. Black River, reminiscent of old southern hymnals, was the most intensely played song of the evening. The crowd's reaction to Lee left no doubt to an encore. After two songs from his new album, he catered to fans with Colors, and after a bit of yelling by concertgoers, the deeply emotional Nighttrain. Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising moment of the entire show came in the form of the Queen classic Fat Bottom Girls. This cover was the most insanely appropriate song to convert into a blues sound, and Amos Lee made it work amazingly.

Amos Lee has yet to find his footing in the spotlight, even though his songs can be found on various movie and TV soundtracks, and even in a cell phone commercial. He has also recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios for the IFC's Live at Abbey Road music series. He does not need fancy lighting, a 9 piece band, or mindless chatter inbetween sets. Lee's music says it all in the lyrics and his clearly apparent love for playing live. If you are less than impressed with his studio albums and think all the songs start sounding the same, then attending a show is the best remedy. Afterwards, each song will sound differently from the first time you heard it, and you will rediscover an incredible artist with unparalleled talent.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's time to discover the Undiscovered

So I have a tendency to pull a John Cusak in High Fidelity and make 'Top Five' lists. Top 5 movies, top 5 best pick up lines, even top 5 best sandwiches. Well as a music buff, I have to make sub-categories because there's just too much good stuff out there. I want to tell you a little bit about one of my favorite CD's released in the past 5 years.

This Boy. Wonderful World. You Give me Something. Undiscovered. All hit songs off of 23 year-old James Morrison's breakout CD Undiscovered. And if you haven't heard of any of these, they are huge hits in the UK. Now, I first heard this amazing talent while in Ireland a little over a year ago. I mistook him for Ray LaMontagne. The throaty voice, the tame melody, and though provoking lyrics all pointed in that direction. But after a few times hearing You Give Me Something on the radio, the Irish DJ proceeded to tell me that it was James Morrison. As soon as I returned stateside, I looked him up on iTunes, only to be disappointed when he wasn't there. So I ordered his CD online. As soon as I popped it into the player, I didn't take it out for a month.

So let me just start by saying WOW. Not exactly poetry, but there might not be any other words to describe this young wonder. And no studio tricks necessary. I saw him live, TWICE, in the same day. All acoustic, and all fabulous. The highlight of the second show was when he broke out in the Van Morrsion classic
And it Stoned Me. The young crowd seemed oblivious to the fact that they were hearing history.

But enough of my praise for the singer. Technically, James Morrison is flawless in his songwriting and perfectly flawed in his voice.
This Boy tells a tale of a young boy forced to make up for his parents shortcomings. Clearly comes from past experiences. The boy grows up into a young man who falls in love and gets his heart broken, but lives to tell the tale in The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore. As the boy recovers and experiences adulthhood he realizes that he's "Not lost, just Undiscovered." This he screams from the top of his lungs in Undiscovered.

Undiscovered by James Morrison is a CD you will listen to for 60 days straight, then put back in it's case for a few months. You will find it while looking for your Bob Dylan or Dave Matthews, see it, and think 'This is a great CD. I think I'll listen to it again'. And as you do, you'll wonder why you ever stopped.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What do you do when you become a classic?

As we grow up, we learn that the word classic is usually used to describe something that stays great throughout time. In school, we study the classics: Shakespeare, Dante, Twain. When we are looking for our first car, we drool over the thought of owning a classic: perhaps a '64 Mustang or '67 Chevy. So how come as the decades pass, each generation distastefully refers to their parents’ moldy oldies as classic music? And why, although generally acknowledged as good, does classic music get categorized by young listeners as old people music? What do you do when you realize that the bands you listened to in high school are now considered classic rock?

The exact scenario above just happened to This Girl. I was passing the time watching music videos, tuned into VH1 Classic, and the music video for Soul Asylum's Misery from 1995 came on. As always, the first 4 chords reminded me of hot and stagnant summer nights spent playing capture the flag and an 11 o'clock curfew. This music video would inevitably always be on late night MTV as I recapped the days events with my best friend on the phone, or with my Marvin the Martian diary. I sat on the couch and watched the video with a smile on my face, but then realized that this was now considered a classic rock song! I remembered that my other favorite band from the mid 90's, The Gin Blossoms, toured with Soul Asylum this summer. They came to Chastain Amphitheater as part of the Classic Chastain music series. What!? Classic who?! Now I consider myself pretty hip and trendy, and I am most certainly up to speed on fresh new music. So how come bands I think are cool, would now be boo-ed by my 17-year-old cousin? What is going on here!

I thought back to some of the other music that gets played on this 'classic' music channel. Dire Straits, Michael Jackson, and wait, Blues Traveler?! What constitutes a classic band? When I was a youth, classic rock was considered Led Zepplin, The Who, Boston, and The Beatles. Now those bands at the time hadn't released a new album in a decade or more, even if they were still participating in the occasional U.S. tour. Others such as Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, and U2 had been around for 10-30 years but not considered old or classic. They were still releasing new albums, which generally had a new sound from their previous ones. Generating a new sound allowed the bands to be enjoyed and discovered by a younger audience, who then went backwards to fall in love with their earlier works. So maybe keeping up with the times, redefining the original sound, and creating fresh chords is what keeps a band from being considered a classic.

There are moments in every person’s life where they begin to feel old. Maybe it’s the first time a child puts Mr. or Ms. in front of their name. Or maybe it’s the first time you leave a bar early because you ‘have a busy day tomorrow’. But for every music enthusiast, the gauge of age comes when their favorite album from high school is filed in the classic rock category of the used record store. They say that all things get better with age. If this is true, then the brilliance that is The Doors, The O’Jays, and Earth, Wind, and Fire will soon be studied as ‘The Classics’ in the next music appreciation class. With that being said, if Bon Jovi, Blues Traveler, and Soul Asylum are considered classic, then just think of This Girl as an old fart.

But that's just This Girl talking...