October 04, 2023
Amos Lee is paying tribute to Lucinda Williams, one of his musical heroes by releasing an album that covers 11 of her most beloved songs.
"Honeysuckle Switches: The Songs of Lucinda Williams," is due out Friday, Nov. 24. About 1,500 copies have been pressed onto pink honeysuckle-colored vinyl to be sold as part of Record Store Day's Black Friday sale. The album also will be available on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.
On Wednesday, Lee released his cover of "Greenville," Williams' 1998 collaboration with Emmylou Harris from her Grammy Award-winning album, "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road." Lee said "there's a lot of love in the lyrics — we've all been difficult and impulsive, but we are not unlovable or unsalvageable."
"Honeysuckle Switches" also includes Lee's rendition of "Get Right With God," which earned Williams her third Grammy Award in 2002. Other songs are "Everything Has Changed," "Compassion," "Sweet Old World" and "Bus To Baton Rouge."
Lee, 46, became a fan of Williams as a teenager in Philadelphia, discovering her music while listening to WXPN. They met in person years later and collaborated on "Clear Blue Eyes," a song from Lee's 2011 album, "Mission Bell." Last fall, Lee covered her song, "Little Angel, Little Brother," during the 2022 Troubadour Awards, which recognizes songwriters that have made profound impacts on the creative community.
Lee said Williams is "the most genuine and kind person" whose "vulnerability opened my heart." The folk singer said he has returned to her songbook repeatedly as he has reckoned with grief over the last year, saying she "embraces sadness but is never enveloped by it."
Last fall, Lee released "My Ideal: A Tribute to Chet Baker Sings," an ode to the jazz musician – another of Lee's musical heroes. The album, recorded with David Streim, Madison Rast, Anwar Marshall and other Philly musicians, was meant to remind Lee's fans of his early years as an artist on the jazz label Blue Note Records.
Earlier last year, Lee released his eighth studio album, "Dreamland." The album explored his experiences with depression and anxiety, much of which was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the music industry. The lead single, "Worry No More," brings Lee back to some of the most sentimental places of his childhood, including Starr Garden Park in South Philly.
Lee, who was born Ryan Anthony Massaro in Kensington in 1977, briefly lived in South Philly before moving to Cherry Hill at 11 years old. He graduated from Cherry Hill High School East and earned an English degree at the University of South Carolina before working as a second grade teacher at the Mary McLeod Bethune School in North Philly. He also bartended at music venues in the city.
Lee spent time as an opening act for Mose Allison and B.B. King before releasing his self-titled debut album while on tour with Norah Jones in 2005.
In 2013, Lee received a mayoral citation from Michael Nutter for his contributions to Philly culture and music, as well as his volunteer efforts with WXPN's Musicians on Call program, which brings live music to the bedsides of hospital patients in the Philly area. Nutter also presented Lee with the Liberty Bell Award.