Singer-songwriter Amos Lee's latest album "Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song," is more about joy than sadness. On his fifth studio album, the Philly native and University of South Carolina grad ruminates about life, love and the ways people connect with each other over 12 achingly beautiful tracks.
Lee will perform at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on Nov. 16 as part of his U.S. Headline Tour.
The acoustic crooner's latest effort follows popular hits "Sweet Pea," "Arms of a Woman," and the 2011 chart-topping album "Mission Bell."
Lee chose to record "Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song," in Nashville for the first time with his touring band, comprising Freddie Berman, Zach Djanikian, Andy Keenan and Jaron Olevsky.
"We just went down and had a good time," Lee said. "Those guys are integral to my sound in a live setting. It's still a studio record, but it's more or less live.
"By and large the record was done as a group in a room. It has that that old-school mentality."
On earlier albums, Lee's rich timbre and textured James Taylor-esque vocals lend themselves seamlessly to folksy blues songs. On "Mountains of Sorrow," Lee waxes country, joined on tracks by bluegrass phenom Alison Krauss and Grammy award-winner Patty Griffin.
"I don't really know what it means to sound country," Lee said. "It depends on the song.
"The song with Jerry Douglas (on the dobro) is definitely country-based. But there's a lot of stuff that's not really country at all."
The album's producer, Jay Joyce, has worked with a number Nashville bands, including Griffin and country king Eric Church. Joyce's experience with country music could have rubbed off on the album, Lee added.
Lee was the first artist to record in Joyce's new studio, a renovated church on the Eastern side of the city. The group relocated to Nashville for a month and recorded the album in about three weeks.
So far, critical response to "Mountains of Sorrow" has been positive, with The New York Times hailing it a "serenely sure-footed effort" and music magazine Elmore calling it Lee's "finest yet."
"People have been enjoying it. The songs that we play live people have been liking," Lee said.
"The record-buying climate is so different now, so it's hard to surmise what's actually going on unless it's a huge record. For guys like me who don't get any mainstream radio play, it's harder to tell. At the end of the day, our job is to stay the course and play the shows and do our best with them," he said.
For his Charleston show, Lee said fans can expect a dynamic concert, with songs showing up from all of his records.
"It's about having a good time. That's what we're there to do and want everyone else to do," he said.
As for playing to his South Carolina crowd and singing "Southern Girl," (a hit from his sophomore album "Supply and Demand") the jury is out.
"It's possible," Lee said. "I don't know yet since we haven't made the set list, but it's possible."
Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.