Archive for the ‘Sam Amidon’ Category

SAM AMIDON

January 5, 2015

from NYTimes:

SAM AMIDON“Lily-O” (Nonesuch CD)

The final track on “Lily-O,” a hauntingly beautiful new album by the folk singer Sam Amidon, begins in resonant quiet, with the droning overtones of what sounds like a Tibetan singing bowl. Soon, you’re aware of an electric guitar blended into the mix, followed by a more clearly articulated acoustic guitar part, in lilting cadence.

Mr. Amidon’s calm, self-contained voice arrives a minute into the song — “Devotion,” an Appalachian shape-note hymn composed in 1818, based on poetry written in England a century earlier. The lyrics welcome death as a doorway, turning in earnest toward eternity, and Mr. Amidon sings them evenly, building each new phrase upon the last.

“Lily-O” is the second of Mr. Amidon’s albums released by Nonesuch, and like its predecessor “Bright Sunny South,” it consists mainly of reframed traditional songs. Mr. Amidon again plays banjo, fiddle and guitar, all with plain-spoken grace; his rhythm partners are the bassist Shahzad Ismaily and the drummer Chris Vatalaro. Mr. Amidon’s singing is unforced but sturdy, and possibly playing with your notions of guilelessness.

Whatever has happened to bring American folk song back into style, it rests on some ideal of rough-hewed authenticity. So it’s a meaningful subversion that Mr. Amidon works with the producer Valgeir Sigurdsson, who recorded the album in his studio in Iceland, and the guitarist Bill Frisell, whose vision of Americana runs heartfelt but not hidebound.

The album could easily have been credited as an Amidon-Frisell collaboration, rather than a solo album, for all of its silvery sheen and echoing filigree. But Mr. Amidon owns the liberties taken with these songs: the title track, which begins a cappella and ends in a semiabstract swirl; “Blue Mountains,” with its brittle rhythm programming; “Walkin’ Boss,” with its clatter-boom beat and pedal delay. His version of “Groundhog,” a frisky tune associated with Doc Watson, turns ruminative, almost sinister.

But another song from the Watson repertory, the elegy “Your Long Journey,” brings out the album’s most moving performance. Mr. Amidon sings in a muted voice, trusting the lyrics to make their own impression. The song arrives near the album’s close, so its heavenward glance doubles as a seamless transition.

NATE CHINEN, Oct 2014

As I Roved Out

June 16, 2013

Song starts at 0:40 seconds.

edited from http://www.npr.org and http://amidonmusic.com:

Sam Amidon, from Brattleboro, VT, approaches old time music from a northern perpective.

Shape-note singing is a communal form of music that began in New England 200 years ago, mostly from townsfolk without any musical training. It’s music that surrounded Amidon during his childhood in Vermont.

“These are some of the melodies that are the deepest-seated for me,” Amidon says. “That was the world I was born into. And in terms of the shape-note music being a social tradition, it was something that happened, yeah, once a month in our town. You know, it would move to different people’s houses, sometimes ours. It was a potluck on a Saturday afternoon.”

Now, in a new album titled Bright Sunny South, Amidon reimagines the songs his parents sang. Amidon says he takes an old tune that gets stuck in his head and ends up adding something new.

Amidon: I learned “As I Roved Out”  from Bruce Greene, and his wife Loy McWhirter. Bruce is a fiddle player who lives in North Carolina, and he went around eastern Kentucky in the early ’70s learning fiddle from guys who were 80 and 90 years old, who had learned their tunes from Confederate veterans and ex-slaves. He found — almost by accident — this whole swath of fiddle players that other folklorists had missed. Bruce and Loy are very deep musicians, and they have an album of a cappella ballads called Come Near My Love. It’s somewhere between Alan Lomax, John and Yoko, and Albert Ayler. It’s only their two voices, but the harmonies are really weird and beautiful, and they sing these seven or 10 verse ballads — really dark, long, strange murder ballads.