Amos Lee must be the hero of open mic singers everywhere.
Raised in Cherry Hill, he took a hankering to music as a college student in South Carolina. But he really got serious about performing while teaching second graders and tending bar (presumably, not at the same time) around Philadelphia.
Lee began performing on open mic stages… and got himself booked as an opener for the likes of B.B. King and Mose Allison.
Six albums later, there is no looking back for the 36-year-old singer-songwriter. For almost two hours on Tuesday, he dazzled fans at Morristown’s Mayo Performing Arts Center with an ever-shifting mix of styles.
Propelled by a nimble band that pulled a pedal steel quitar, mandolin and squeezebox from its gig bag, Lee effortlessly shifted from bluesy to smoky to twangy to rocking.
At times he sounded a bit like a young John Hiatt; on a couple of other numbers, he evoked a more tuneful version of Bob Dylan — one of the big names he has toured with.
The band shared a microphone for a lively Celtic medley, and near the end of the night, Lee brought back opener Pieta Brown, an Iowan with poetic lyrics and a dreamy voice, for a smooth duet.
Bantering easily with the crowd, Lee summoned his inner schoolteacher when a fan shouted comments about the New York Rangers. The singer threatened to have the fan’s you-know-what hauled from the theater, which got a big laugh.
This was my introduction to Amos Lee, who came highly recommended by a friend in the entertainment world. Good tip! We will keep an ear out for this performer in the future…and pay closer attention at open mics.
(The next Amos Lee could be discovered on Friday, June 13, 2014… at The Minstrel’s monthly open stage in Morris Township. Anthony’s Pizza and Tavern Off the Green in Morristown also welcome new performers on a regular basis.)
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