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Supply And Demand (2006)

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Amos Lee

On the title track to his sophomore effort, Supply and Demand, singer/songwriter Amos Lee sings, "Baby I need a plan to help me understand, that life ain't only supply and demand." If the supply and demand Lee is referring to is money, success, and power -- and it clearly is -- then the stuff he truly values here is the currency of freedom, love, and sympathy for your fellow man. It's just such yin-yang subject matter that has driven folksingers to set struggle to melody ever since Depression-era scufflers like Woody Guthrie pointed out how America was technically "made for you and me" and not just those in the nice suits. For the most part, Lee is on about the same stuff here, although his vantage point is the more stylish, if no less lonely, tour bus and not a dust bowler's flatbed truck. Nonetheless, Lee is a heartfelt songwriter with an R&B crooner's sense of romance and drama and a real knack for turning his own ennui into anthems for the average guy. He tackles wars of various stripes on "Freedom" and like John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change," the song finds Lee deftly threading the political needle with lines like "Don't want to blame the rich for what they got or point a finger at the poor for what they have not" and "Freedom is seldom found by beatin' someone to the ground." It's a catchy stump speech of a tune and, three songs in, lifts the album up from just pleasant into something truly welcome and unexpected. Similarly engaging is the sanguine, slow ballad "Careless," which mixes the Band's "The Night We Drove Old Dixie Down" and Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Helpless" into a gut-wrenching and artful self-indictment of infidelity. However, it's the low-key and darkly sweet "Night Train" that should remain as not just the album's best cut, but Lee's signature song. Hypnotically simple, the song hangs on the chorus with Lee's candid omission, "I've been workin' on a night train/Drinkin' coffee, takin' cocaine/I'm out here on my night train/Tryin' to get her safely home." It's a hushed, rhythmically propulsive song filled with dramatic tension that is beautifully colored by shimmers of organ and lush guitars. On an album all about what's been bought and sold, both personally and collectively, it shows how in tune Lee is with this land of ours and how good he is at selling his soul in the best possible way. ~ Matt Collar