South by Southwest 2005: Amos Lee at Austin Music Hall in Austin

Blue Note records drew snickers and jeers from jazz purists in 2002 when they took a chance on an artist named Norah Jones, who was surely not your father’s jazz crooner.

The bet paid off massively with many millions of CDs sold, loads of awards and a fiscal windfall for the label. Blue Note’s 2005 mold-breaker is talented newcomer Amos Lee (bio | CDs – DVDs – books), who seems poised for major notice in the months to come. Lee’s SXSW showcase took place Friday night (3/18) at the Austin Music Hall.

Like Jones, Lee brings no traditional jazz flavors to the table, instead mining a rich well of country-folk-tilted balladry poured through his silky, soulful voice.

Lee taps into a simple earthiness laid sparse and naked, with a Lyle Lovett-like sensitivity and a Bonnie Raitt-flavor of world-weary grit. That recipe can generate some goose-bump moments when he wants to soar, as in mid-set highlight “Arms of a Woman” and set-closer “All My Friends.”

The future for Lee is busy. Coming off of an opening-act stint on Norah Jones’ European tour, Lee will spend the next two months opening for Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard on their theater tour.

Published by Richard Tafoya

Richard Tafoya is a music journalist, photographer and web developer living in Los Angeles. This site is a mix of original posts and unedited versions of material created for other publications.

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