Having started out as a soul- and folk-influenced singer/songwriter, the Philadelphia-born Amos Lee has developed over the years into an increasingly rootsy, country-leaning artist. On his fifth studio album, 2013's Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, Lee delves even further into a lyrical country style on what are some of his most heartfelt songs to date. The album follows up his acclaimed 2011 release, Mission Bell, an album that was also steeped in country influences. In keeping with the rootsy approach, Lee recorded this album in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce, who has helmed similar productions for Emmylou Harris and the Wallflowers. Lee has a knack for picking top-notch backing musicians and Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song is no exception, featuring superb instrumental work from Lee's touring band, including, among others, pianist/organist Jaron Olevsky, guitarist/banjo player Andy Keenan, bassist Zach Djanikian, and drummer Freddy Berman. He is also joined by several big-name collaborators here, including guitarist Jerry Douglas, who adds some earthy dobro to the title track, and guitarist Tony Joe White, who brings his bluesy, atmospheric skills to several tracks. Similarly, contemporary bluegrass superstar Alison Krauss lends her ethereal presence to the poignant "Chill in the Air," and journeyman folk chanteuse Patty Griffin harmonizes with Lee to goose bump-inducing effect on "Mountains of Sorrow." Ultimately, though, whether it’s the roiling, contemporary country twang of "Stranger," or the poignant heartbreak of "Dresser Drawer," it's Lee's talents as an insightful songwriter and soulful vocalist that beg your attention on Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar