The Reverend Shawn Amos and the Brotherhood – Blue Sky
Put Together Music
CD: 10 Songs, 32 Minutes
Styles: Harmonica Blues, Folk, All Original Songs
On an album entitled Blue Sky, by The Reverend Shawn Amos and the Brotherhood, one might expect to hear lighthearted tunes with a distinct gospel flavor. In this case, one would be wrong. The ten original numbers featured here have edge, grit, and a bit of swampy spookiness. Think Bruce Springsteen meets Paul Simon with a touch of Little Walter. Pack all that into an RV, as featured on the cover, and you have a traveling troupe with a notable name (Shawn is the son of Wally “Famous” Amos, of the cookie brand) and a lot going for them. With camper-loads of talent and an adventurous spirit that just won’t quit, Shawn and his brotherhood are destined for not only greatness, but iconic status. Tasty vending machine snacks may have made his father’s fortune, but luckily for harmonica blues and folk fans, Shawn has embarked on a different path. His vocals are smoothly understated, but there’s magnificent melody in it if one listens closely. The instrumentation he and his Brotherhood provide is superb, on par with Brother Dege. For thirty-two minutes, they take us to a veritable paradise.
Ever hear of actors and musicians “phoning it in” when it comes to a performance? That’s the one thing Shawn tries never to do. As he states on his website, “My whole artistic life has been a process of: how do I get all of me to show up? I fought hard to be here, so I’m gonna make sure all of me shows up.” That he does, from start to finish, on this masterpiece of an album. “When I first played blues,” the Rev says, “I had no interest in writing. I put up a firewall between the Rev and my Americana past…but I slowly got the bug again. This is the first time I’ve had the space to try to be more of a singer-songwriter within the confines of the blues.”
Performing alongside their Reverend are “the Brotherhood” – Brady Blade (Indigo Girls) on drums, bassist Christopher Thomas (Norah Jones, Macy Gray), and longtime Rev guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts. Also lending their pipes are “the Sisterhood” – Piper Amos, Sharlotte Gibson, Ruthie Foster, and Kenya Hathaway. Matt Hubbard plays piano, Wurlitzer, and Hammond organ; Ben Peeler on lap steel, pedal steel, dobro and mandolin; Jamelle Adisa and Mike Cottone on trumpet; Marc Bolin on sousaphone; Matthew DeMerritt on tenor sax; Tim Ganard on bass drum; John Montgomery on snare drum; James Saez on “sundry stringed and electronic things,” Johann Stein on guitar, and Dan Weinstein on trombone.
Standout tracks include the atmospheric folk opener, hard-hitting Texas stomp “Countin’ Down the Days,” with a refrain that’ll snare anyone and everyone (“I swore I wouldn’t get angry – this time”), and the surefire sing-along hit “The Job Is Never Done.” The flawless diamond, though, is “Troubled Man,” the second track. It’s an eerie breakup song to put all other breakup songs to shame, the tale of ex-lovers who fear they’ll “stand up and do it all again.” They suspect, however, that the stories they tell each other may not be 100% true: “People believe what they want to believe, say the world is flat and on fire. I’m gonna preach what I know. I ain’t never letting go of the hope that I hold inside.”
Take it from me: don’t miss the Blue Sky in your search for fantastic blues!