With a soft, relaxing voice that floats in harmony with mellow, earthy acoustics, it’s no wonder Ole Miss students are eager to attend singer, songwriter and guitarist Amos Lee’s sold-out concert at 8 p.m. tonight at The Lyric Oxford.
Lee has a uniquely tranquil sound that merges bluesy R&B/soul and folk melodies with light jazz and rock tunes. His music provides listeners a calm escape from the craziness of everyday life.
“I started listening to his music when I really just needed things to slow down in life,” sophomore psychology major Mary Catherine Russell said. “His voice can calm the storm.”
Russell, who bought tickets for the concert long ago, said she has loved Lee ever since he covered “Like A Virgin” by Madonna in the 10th season of “Grey’s Anatomy.” She just thought his rendition was so “soothing and beautiful.”
The Philadelphia native did not seriously begin pursuing music until after he graduated from the University of South Carolina in the mid-’90s with a degree in English. While waiting tables, Lee honed his literary education to create lyrics that touch on universal human experiences such as love, friendship, family, comfort and freedom.
Pianist and vocalist Norah Jones then discovered Lee’s demo and invited him to open for her extended tour in 2005. Shortly afterward, Lee produced his first self-titled album with “Blue Note Records,” which includes hits “Arms of a Woman” and “Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight.”
Contrary to what many thought, the Huffington Post reported that the lyrics of “Arms of a Woman” do not describe an autobiographical experience but rather — in Lee’s words — the “basic comforts of another human being.”
“Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight” is sophomore public policy and journalism major Griffin Neal’s favorite song, in which Lee croons “Oh, in society, every dollar got a deed, we all need a place so we can go, and feel over the rainbow.”
“The thing I like most about Amos is the timelessness of his music,” Neal said. “No matter what mood you’re in, he has a song to either remedy or embolden.”
Lee’s second album, “Supply and Demand,” produced in 2006, includes the sugary tune “Sweet Pea” that many recognize from an AT&T advertisement broadcasted around the same time.
Despite Lee’s Northern roots, the lyrics from his song “Southern Girl” display his affinity to the South. “In a Mississippi morning, she’s an angel in flight, in a blink of an eye, she’ll be out of your sight,” Lee sings.
In 2006, The New York Times wrote about Lee’s humbleness and referred to him as a “folkie happy to play his music.”
With his newer albums, “Mission Bell” and “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song,” released in 2011 and 2013, respectively, Lee infuses his music with more spiritual and soul-funk textures.
Third-year Ole Miss law student April Chaney said she likes Lee’s music because it is warm and comfortable.
“I can put on his ‘Mission Bell’ album, roll down the windows on a drive and just feel free,” Chaney said.
In his most recent album, Lee belts out introspective ballads such as “Chill in the Air” and “Johnson Blvd,” while simultaneously spicing up his sound with more groovy and sizzling songs such as “The Man Who Wants You.”
If you’re a fan of laid-back vocalists such as John Mayer, Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson, chances are you will be also be attracted to Lee’s serenity.
Multu Onaral, a soul artist with Turkish ancestry who is also from Philadelphia and has traditionally served as a guitarist for Lee, will go solo this time and open the show.