116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
“Dreamland,” the latest album by singer-songwriter Amos Lee, offers a sonic escape from a world worn down by the pandemic, inflation and divisiveness.
The soulful amalgam of acoustic ballads, poignant R&B and earnest country tunes is an impressive leap forward for Lee.
The veteran bard’s eighth album is moody but the project is laced with optimism. “Worry No More” and “See the Light” are songs which are hopeful and catchy. Lee doesn't just vent. Lee emotes and it’s cathartic for the songsmith and the listener.
Lee’s latest collection of songs are confessional and at times dark. “Seeing Ghosts” is heavy but lovely. Lee has never been so vulnerable. Lee is a fearless songwriter, who crafts distinctive, provocative and heavy tunes. Each cut typically includes at least a shard of reality.
“I think songs should come from a place,” Lee said. “I think if you’re moved by something that happened to you or somebody, you can bring something to the table that has lots of heart and emotion. That’s what I try to do.”
Lee, 45, is typically moved after listening to other recording artists.
“I need to hear new music,” he said. “I have to hear it, since it inspires me. When I hear great new music, I’m moved to write. It doesn’t matter what the genre is — if I like it, it can inspire me to craft a new song.”
The former schoolteacher, who has opened for Norah Jones, Paul Simon and John Prine, is an engaging live performer.
“I love getting onstage and connecting with the audience,” Lee said. “I owe everything to my fans. They let me know how much they appreciate my music. The thing that blows me away is that they tell me they tell friends about my music and they’ve really helped expand my base.”
Thanks to the support of a burgeoning fan base, Lee has been performing at halls with considerable capacity.
“It’s cool playing larger venues, but I’m just as (happy) playing someone’s living room. It’s just about playing. I remember what it was like starting out and playing open-mic nights and nobody cared about my music. Nobody wanted to interview me and there were no fans. But I look back at that and appreciate it. I could have stopped, but I kept going and now I have this incredible career. I’m in a good place.”
It’s been an enviable run for Lee, who is an old-school musician who has done it his way since he established himself slugging it out in clubs during the middle of the 2000s.
Lee, who will perform Aug. 19 at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, has no problem veering from blues to country to folk. It’s obvious that such icons as Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and John Prine have had an impact on Lee.
“Why wouldn’t I listen to the best of all time,” Lee said. “I love listening to those people who made such great music.”
Lee also is wise enough to surround himself with some of the finest players in the industry.
His exceptional 2008 album, “Last Days at the Lodge,” features such stellar musicians as guitar hero Doyle Bramhall II, who has played with Roger Waters and Eric Clapton; bassist Pino Palladino, who has performed with The Who and Nine Inch Nails; and drummer James Gadson, who has played with B.B. King and Albert King. The keyboardists who lent a hand are Rami Jaffee, who has played with The Wallflowers and Foo Fighters; and album producer Don Was, who has worked the Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt.
“I’ve worked with some great people and have been so fortunate with this career,” Lee said. “It’s good to look back at what I’ve accomplished and who I worked with, but I’m also moving forward.”