It's easy to dismiss Philadelphia-based troubadour Amos Lee as Norah Jones with testicles. But that does a tremendous disservice to the guy's minimalist, John Prine-like approach to songwriting. Nowhere near as gentrified as Jones, Lee's only real musical connection to Jones — whom he opened for in 2004 — is a shared record label. His blend of jazz, soul, blues, and countrified folk is intimate and indebted to Prine, Dave Van Ronk, and Bill Withers in the same way roots-pop singer Josh Rouse is to '70s soft-rock idioms. But like Rouse, Lee very much owns the distinctive results. His latest CD, Last Days at the Lodge, is a sturdy and soulful tour de force featuring pros like guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, bass player Pino Palladino, and legendary organist and current Drive-By Trucker Spooner Oldham. "Listen," "Ease Back," and "What's Been Going On" summon equal parts somber reflection, dusty roads, and good times. And judging by his MySpace following, Lee works wonders on the ladies. — Peter Chakerian
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