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Sam Amidon – I See the Sign

17 March 2010

by

in Album Review

I finally got to listen to Sam Amidon’s latest album, I see the Sign. It feels like it’s been a long wait, but  it was worth it. I didn’t expect anything less to be honest, but he has delivered a lot more than I ever expected on this, his fourth album. It was a pleasure to see the Whale Watching Tour cast present but the addition of Beth Orton was a stroke of genius. Maybe I’m biased, as she’s an artist whose work I miss. The Amidon Orton duet on You Better Mind is a powerful track, it fits them like a glove. The string and percussion arrangements take the track into musical heaven as it does throughout the album.

Sam is joined by the full Bedroom Community line-up of Valgeir Sigurðsson, Nico Muhly and Ben Frost. As well as Beth Orton appearing on four tracks, which makes a perfect combination, is Shahzad Ismaily, a talented composer and musician who has performed with other Frukie favourites such as Laura Veirs, Bonnie Prince Billy and Faun Fables. He has also studied music extensively in Pakistan, India, Turkey, Mexico, Santiago, Japan, Indonesia, Morocco and Iceland making him a perfect match to the diversely talented line-up.

The combination of sounds created by Amidon, Sigurðsson, Mulhy and Frost was met by surprise when they launched their Whale Watching Tour. They admited themselves that the combination should have not have worked but it did. Sam has used those same ingredients on I see the Sign and with the production talents of Valgeir Sigurðsson, produced a magnificent album that is deeply sympathetic, moving and haunting in places as he conjures up songs from the past.

Rain and Snow is not an unfamiliar traditional folk song to some but the reworking Sam gives it is clever and haunting. He has a gift for stripping back the layers of musical history placed on a song to unveil its true identity. He also has a well suited modern day high lonesome way about his singing, at least that’s what I conjure up in my mind when I listen…whether it’s an old gospel classic such as Climbing High Mountains, or previous material such as the  Appalachian Saro from his album All is Well he magics up ghosts from the past and brings them to life. All the tracks are traditional apart from a reworked version of an unreleased R Kelly track titled ‘Relief’.

<a href="http://samamidon.bandcamp.com/album/i-see-the-sign">How Come That Blood by Sam Amidon</a>
Download: Sam Amidon: “How Come That Blood”

Kedron:

Sam Amidon clearly has a vast array of musical knowledge that he calls upon to de-construct and re-build old songs but whilst he has evolved a very unique contemporary sounding style it has remained deeply rooted, not an easy task where influences range from Folk to Jazz and beyond. I hesitate in applying a genre to this work, I wouldn’t want to stick Sam Amidon in any such category. He doesn’t work within a shell dictated by journalistic descriptions. His approach is far too organic and to stick a label on it would be like trying to steal its very soul.

The combination of artists on this album deliver such an intense experience and I can’t help but be fascinated by it all. I’m quite in awe to be honest, and I use such words very sparingly when I talk about music. This is certainly his best work to date.

If you have never come across Sam Amidon’s work then maybe it’s about time you ventured over to the Bedroom Community and started with this album.

Sam Amidon – Climbing High Mountains (The Cobbleston, Dublin)

Sam Amidon’s latest release, I see the Sign, is due for release on 29th March but don’t wait! The Bedroom Community website have an exclusive pre-order offer here. If you pre-order the CD-digipak you will receive an immediate download of the entire album straight away.

Album Notes

Have you heard of Bessie Jones? She was from North Carolina, but she married a guy from the Georgia Sea Islands and moved there as a young woman. She sang many songs that she had heard growing up, but she also learned the children’s singing-game songs on the Islands and sang them with the kids: Way Go Lily and Johanna the Row-di. She played tambourine like Tony Williams played his ride cymbal. She sang low and gravelly. Her tambourine playing is the best rhythms ever. Thanks to my parents for singing her songs for me when I was growing up, and to Beth and Shahzad for singing them with me here.

It would behoove you to listen to a lot more Sonny Rollins. The “deep breath and soft sweep” of his tone, and the hermetic ordering of his melodies and phrasing can have a positive effect on the electrical charges in the human body. So why are you waiting to listen to his music?

Some of the other words and melodies are from other places. I originally learned Climbing High Mountains from Lucy Simpson. Have you read Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks? Do you see the sign? —Sam

Credits:

Produced and mixed by Valgeir Sigurðsson
Song arrangements by Sam Amidon

PERFORMED BY
Sam Amidon Sing, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
Shahzad Ismaily Drums, Vocals, Bass, Percussion, Humming, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Mini Moog
Beth Orton Vocals, Nylon String Guitar
Valgeir Sigurðsson Bass, Percussion, Mini Moog, Programming
Nico Muhly Piano, Celeste, Harmonium
Ben Frost Electric Guitar

Strings, Brass & Woodwinds arranged and conducted by Nico Muhly
Una Sveinbjarnardóttir Violin
Sigrún Eðvaldsdóttir Violin
Þórarinn Már Baldursson Viola
Hrafnkell Orri Egilsson Cello
Helgi Hrafn Jónsson Trombone
Melkorka Ólafsdóttir Flute
Matthías Nardeu Oboe, English Horn
Helga Björg Arnardóttir Clarinet
Rebekka Bryndís Björnsdóttir Bassoon

Track Listing

How Come That Blood
Shahzad Ismaily Percussion, Mini Moog
Nico Muhly Piano

I See The Sign
Shahzad Ismaily Drums, Backing Vocals, Percussion, Electric Guitars
Valgeir Sigurðsson Bass
Nico Muhly Piano, Celeste

You Better Mind
Beth Orton Vocals
Shahzad Ismaily Drums, Mini Moog Bass
Nico Muhly Piano, Celeste
Valgeir Sigurðsson Bass, Mini Moog, Programming

Way Go Lily
Shahzad Ismaily Drums, Backing Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar
Beth Orton Vocals
Nico Muhly Piano

Johanna The Row-di
Beth Orton Vocals, Nylon String Guitar
Shahzad Ismaily Vocals, humming Electric Guitar, Mini Moog

Pretty Fair Damsel
Nico Muhly Piano, Celeste, Harmonium
Valgeir Sigurðsson Bass, Percussion

Kedron
Shahzad Ismaily Electric Guitar, Percussion
Nico Muhly Celeste, Harmonium
Valgeir Sigurðsson Bass

Rain And Snow
Shahzad Ismaily Bass, Humming, Electric Guitar, Drums
Nico Muhly Harmonium, Piano

Climbing High Mountains
Shahzad Ismaily Percussion, Humming, Nylon String Guitar, E-Bow
Valgeir Sigurðsson Bass
Nico Muhly Piano

Relief
Beth Orton Vocals
Shahzad Ismaily Percussion, Bass, Nylon String Guitar
Nico Muhly Piano, Celeste

Red
Shahzad Ismaily Backing Vocals, Percussion, Acoustic Guitars
Nico Muhly Harmonium, Piano
Ben Frost Electric Guitars

Artist Links:

Sam Amidon | Sam Amidon (MySpace) | Bedroom Community

Purchase links

Amazon: UK: CD | LP Bedroom Community: CD + MP3

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