The Reverend Shawn Amos – The Cause of it All
Put Together Music
The Reverend Shawn Amos started work on his new album pre-pandemic and finished it up in the heights of the Covid crisis. Simple in approach and execution, the album takes a sparse and limited approach to doing ten classic blues songs. Amos wanted to pay homage to the early masters of the blues. When I saw the song list I feared it would be another cover album of tired and over done stuff. I was wrong.
This is Reverend Amos’ fourth studio album and his eighth over all. It’s just Amos on harp and vocals and Chris “Doctor” Roberts who plays guitar for this stark and quite minimal. Amo’s last CD Blue Sky cam out about a year ago and he follows it with a very contrasting and bare bones effort. It works really well for the most part, with a mixed bag of well known and more obscure blues hits.
The classic “Spoonful” gets worked over in an interesting manner. Minimalist and sparse with harp and slide, gritty and grimy. The Rev demonstrates where he’s coming from on this album quickly. “Goin’ To The Church” is a Lester Butler/Red Devils cut. Modern blues, deep and gutsy. It’s the kind of blues that takes you to church but winds up dumping you in a dark alley with a hangover when you’re done. Again, this is quite minimal in it’s approach and the Rev gives us a sermon to remember.
Next is Muddy’s “Still A Fool” which gets a similar makeover. This 1951 song is a hit-you-in-the-gut cover in a manner similar to the first two cuts. It’s good but at this point the approach seems over done a little with all the distortion. The Wolf’s “Color and Kind” is next and we get more vocal and harp distortion and lots of machismo. John Lee Hookers “Serves Me Right To Suffer” follows. The effects are turned off and the somber cut is more effective in delivering the feeling and message than the prior ones.
“I’m Ready” gets turned into what the Rev calls parlor music, a simple performance with just vocals and guitar. This is homey blues done well. “Baby Please Don’t Go” gets similar treatment, also to good effect. Little Walter’s “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer” also gets the down home and sparse approach, slow and mournful and cool. “Hoochie Coochie Man” gets the same sort of treatment, simple yet sold well to the listener. Another Muddy cut finishes off the album, “Little Anna Mae”. It is a B side from a single and was not a featured cut; we get to hear modern Chicago blues with a deep Delta influence in Shawn’s style here. Early Mud, this cut was also originally done acoustically with Sunnyland Slim on piano. Here we get guitar and a vocal delivery of a good bye to a former love that is emotive. Well done!
My only complaint is in the ordering of the songs. Layering the distortion filled ones together was a bit much; to my mind, had they been interspersed it would have come off better. That being said, it’s refreshing to hear interesting takes on cuts we all know by heart. These are not covers done for the sake of doing covers. Here we have Shawn Amos trying his best to put his spin on each cut and give us a fresh take. He succeeds each time and in so doing he has also given is a few gems to admire.