Stu­art Ryan con­cludes his study of great mod­ern Amer­i­can singer-song­writ­ers by ex­am­in­ing the style of an ex­pert song­smith whose in­flu­ences in­clude folk, rock and soul.

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Stu­art Ryan looks at the acous­tic gui­tar style of Amer­i­can singer-song writer Amos Lee.

Amos Lee has re­leased half a dozen ac­claimed solo al­bums, and a suc­cess­ful tour­ing ca­reer has seen him open for Bob Dy­lan, Elvis Costello, Paul Si­mon, No­rah Jones, The Dave Matthews Band and an­other re­cent sub­ject of this col­umn, The Avett Broth­ers.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Univer­sity of South Carolina with a de­gree in English, Philadel­phia born Lee spent sev­eral years work­ing as a school teacher and then a bar­tender in var­i­ous mu­sic venues. He started off as a bassist in a lo­cal band in­flu­enced by clas­sic soul artists Luther Van­dross, Bill Withers and Otis Red­ding, in ad­di­tion to folk leg­end Joni Mitchell. It is this amal­ga­ma­tion of sounds that gives Lee his dis­tinc­tive folk-blues-soul sound, helped along in no small part by his mag­nif­i­cent voice. His record­ing band has fea­tured No­rah Jones and sev­eral of the mu­si­cians from her group so it’s no won­der that Lee has some­times been de­scribed as “The Male No­rah Jones”. More re­cently he has recorded in Nashville with leg­ends Ali­son Krauss and Jerry Dou­glas. Lee’s sound has been shaped over the years, start­ing off with his funk, soul and folk in­flu­ences, and now in­clud­ing more of a blue­grass vibe.

This month’s study uses a fin­ger­pick­ing pat­tern that is typ­i­cal to many folk singer­song­writ­ers in­clud­ing Lee. The al­ter­nat­ing bass and chord pick­ing pat­tern is a must for any fin­ger­stylist, though the chal­lenge is of­ten mak­ing a part sound in­ter­est­ing rather than

Amos Lee’s record­ing band has fea­tured No­rah Jones and sev­eral of her mu­si­cians. No won­der that he’s been called the ‘Male No­rah Jones’

generic. Lee’s gui­tar parts are al­ways in ser­vice to the song; some­times they are very sim­ple sup­port­ive ideas while at other times they act more as the song’s hook. Some­times it can be sub­tle em­bel­lish­ment to a chord or slightly dif­fer­ent pick­ing pat­tern which can dif­fer­en­ti­ate one singer-song­writer from an­other and Lee is no dif­fer­ent – he has com­mon pat­terns and chords that you’ll hear in his writ­ing, all of which go to give him his in­di­vid­ual sound.

Al­though this style is fairly straight­for­ward to play there are some finer points to al­ways be aware of – not least main­tain­ing strong tim­ing through­out and keep­ing ev­ery note picked cleanly and clearly, with enough vol­ume on each pick­ing hand fin­ger so ev­ery­thing sounds even. In­deed, de­vel­op­ing a bal­anced sound across all the strings can be one of the great­est but most sub­tle chal­lenges for any fin­ger­style player and gain­ing this even­ness of fa­cil­ity should be a part of all our prac­tise regimes. See you next time when we be­gin an ex­cit­ing new se­ries - see be­low!

Amos Lee: US singer, song­writer and gui­tarist

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