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For ‘Mission Bell’, Amos Lee Enriches His Songwriting with Star Power

Filmed by Saskia de Melker and Lauren Knapp

With a sound that’s a little bit of folk, mixed with some gospel undertones and a funky soul, Amos Lee, an elementary school teacher turned singer-songwriter made his recording debut in 2005 and has been drawing audiences ever since.

On his latest album, “Mission Bell,” Lee enriches his songwriting with new musical arrangements and big-name collaborations. The album was produced by Calexico’s Joey Burns, and engineered by Craig Schumacher, who infused a fuller instrumental sound into Lee’s songs.

The album also has several guest artists: Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine, and R&B drummer James Gadson.

Lee is a prolific performer, touring to sold-out concert venues across the globe. However, the most memorable performances for the musician himself take place in a very different setting.

Musicians on Call is an organization that brings live, in-room performances to patients undergoing serious treatment or who are too ill to leave their hospital beds. Lee is acutely aware of the powerful effect of music and the connection he makes when he’s playing for a patient, recalling the response of a woman he played for once in hospice care.

“I just stood at her doorway and said, ‘Listen, I’m just gonna play out here. If you want me to go away, just close the door. I’ll be fine.’ And she didn’t really say anything and I started playing the tune and she kind of looked over. And then about half way through the song she was just out of her chair dancing to the song and it was miraculous in a way. I’d never felt that before as a musician.”

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