Amos Lee - Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, NC, 2011
I took this!
"Woke up this morning
and the sky was colored gray.
I gotta' do a little bit better
than I did with myself yesterday.
Gotta keep myself from falling so far behind.
Oh, keep getting myself right on down the line."
If I remember correctly, I first encountered the music of Amos Lee when I was completing my National Board Teaching Certification renewal back when I lived in Wilson, North Carolina. I was tirelessly pounding out those reflections on the work I had accomplished that year and needed some music to pace the rhythm of keys on my laptop.
I am sure everyone has some artist who can energize you when you start falling behind in life or when you simply have lost that energy to keep pushing through an arduous task. This same artist who inspires can also be that breeze when a journey is accomplished, that gentle rain to wash away the dirt, that glass of wine to quench your thirst, that mirror to reflect who you are, where you have been, and where you are going.
Years ago Amos Lee performed at the Lincoln Theater, this old tobacco warehouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, that had been converted into a bar/concert hall which held not more than 500 people. I went to see Amos Lee at this theater on a rainy Saturday night with Toni Varrachi, a friend of mine from back in the day in Wilson. I recall arriving REALLY early at the Lincoln just to make sure we knew where the show was. When we saw a tour bus behind that dilapidated old building, Toni and I parked out back as well, hoping to catch a glimpse of Amos.
Toni and I bantered back and forth when we witnessed some guy with a beard exit the bus and enter the back of the warehouse through a propped open door. I told her we should run up to see if it was really him. My gut screamed it was him, but oddly I was still unsure. I have never seen Amos sporting a beard so I tried to assure myself that this figure could not possibly be him. I should have just hopped out of Toni's truck and coolly sauntered up to the door to find out. I hesitated. If I had a beer or two in me, I do not think I would have internally debated this decision. I shrugged my shoulders, reassuring myself it could not have been him, then Toni and I went to a local eatery until the concert.
We were early for the concert in order to secure a nice spot in the pit near the front of the stage. This spot was close enough for us to see that Amos Lee did have a beard. Damn.
"Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy on me.
Lord, have mercy, please,
Cause we're running out of time."
The song "Running out of Time" on Amos Lee's latest CD Spirit speaks to that hesitancy we all have and its ramifications on how we see our world when we wake up in the every morning. In his opening verse Lee captures the emotions of a morning in which "the sky was colored gray," a self-critical product of his regrets for "falling so far behind" in the past. He needs to use this day as a new beginning, to add color to that gray sky by taking action in his life, thereby living his dreams and overcoming the hesitancy that affects us all at one time or another. Lee understands the finite nature of time itself. He asks "mercy" of the Lord because he realizes that he may not have strength to continue pushing forward.
"Oh, that train come
Full speed ahead.
It's a rumbling down the track.
Well, I know that train ain't stopped before,
And I know that train don't know how to turn back,
so I gotta do a little bit better than once I did."
Lee's train metaphor reinforces what we all know about the nature of life itself with each individual person as a passenger. Life travels at "full speed" whether we are ready or not. As we grow older, we all learn that this train does not stop, and it certainly does not "turn back" for us. Thus, we arrive at the message Lee is conveying: "(we) gotta do a little better than once (we) did."
That's what life is, doing a little bit better each day we board that train. How do we do that? Regardless of our age, each of us should be more introspective, asking ourselves if we are loving our neighbors, our friends, and our families as we know we should, asking ourselves if we are stoking that inner fire of our passions so that our flame does not turn to embers then ash, asking ourselves if we are waking each morning to a gray sky that is a manifestation of our own regret because, deep down, we know we are running out of time.
Amos Lee - Running Out of Time
Amos Lee - Flower (Another GREAT song!)
Amos Lee. "Running out of Time." Spirit. John Varvatos Records/Republic Records, 2016.