The Reverend Shawn Amos
|Los Angeles-based soul brother number one, The Reverend Shawn Amos, continues his mission to preach joyful blues to the world on his third album The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down, set to release February 16. When asked to write a short reflection describing the album and what he means by calling it a collection of 21st century Freedom Songs, this is his response: “this album was born while on tour through the American south during the spring of 2017. Driving through Tennessee and Alabama, I was reminded of my color, my otherness. I was drawn to how we pull ourselves apart while needing each other so badly. I revisited the freedom songs of The Staples Singers while visiting the ghosts of Birmingham and Memphis. Time stands still and life marches on.”
The nine-song set includes five original songs, two inspired covers, and a three track “Freedom Suite” that rolls out like a Sunday passion play of inspiration, desperation and revelation. Amos was obviously inspired by the tremendous turmoil and social unrest around the world today in his songwriting, yet digging deeper into the lyrics reveals clues of admitted recent hardships in his home life. The result is an album that strikes a delicate balance between capturing personal challenges while capitalizing on the zeitgeist of this critical time in history.
The album opens with the early morning confessional ‘Moved,’ recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with longtime sideman Chris “Doctor” Roberts on guitar and Amos on harmonica. The first of his new “21st Century Freedom Songs,” ‘2017’ follows. The classic soul groove in the style of Curtis Mayfield and the Staples Singers was recorded at the renowned Royal Studios in Memphis. Amos is joined by Al Green’s famed backing band, The Hi Rhythm Section, along with a string arrangement from Chris Anderson and vocals from The Masqueraders. The cornerstone lyric is a simple mandate for mankind; ”hate and fear ain’t no vaccine, we’ve got to think about what our children’s eyes have seen, in the year 2017.” Amos then leads the congregation to sing a simple plea for peace, ‘Hold Hands,’ that features tasty Hammond B3 from Peter Adams. Amos and his crew deliver a greasy cover of Bowie’s 1972 hit ‘The Jean Genie,’ adding space to the Glam Rock anthem to pump up the drama.
The Freedom Suite begins with an a cappella reading of Uncle Tom’s Prayer, paying homage to Freedom Singers founder, Cordell Hull Reagon, who first recorded the powerful civil rights song in the early 1960s. Amos then expands upon the words of Booker T. Washington (aka Bukka White) on the stirring ‘Does My Life Matter,’ transforming the delta blues poem into a theatrical epic. The fiery funk of ‘(We’ve Got To) Come Together,’ rounds out the suite with hot horn jabs and Amos quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on another piece of genuine Memphis Soul from Royal Studios. The album takes a side trip back to the west coast and Ocean Studios in Burbank for the fun-loving romp ‘Ain’t Gonna Name Names,’ before delivering the final altar call in a full gospel choir version of the new wave anthem ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.’ A gritty blues duet of Leadbelly’s ‘Diggin’ In My Potatoes,’ sneaks in as a bonus track for those who buy the whole album.
The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down, as an album of timely songs, will not only further his mission statement, but will also stand as a landmark artistic achievement for Amos and his career as a bluesman of purpose.
Rick J Bowen
The Reverend Shawn Amos, son of Wally Amos (Famous Amos cookie brand), attributes his diverse background to growing up in the colorful Hollywood landscape.
Prior to becoming a blues preacher — and ordained minister with the Universal Life Church — Amos was an A&R executive at Rhino Entertainment and vice president of A&R at Shout! Factory, where he produced and recorded multiple Grammy-nominated projects. He produced broadcast, DVD and audio titles for legacy artists ranging from Heart to Quincy Jones, for whom Amos later ran the Listen Up Foundation. Throughout Amos’ childhood and adulthood, his mother suffered from schizoaffective disorder and ultimately committed suicide in 2003. The trauma of the event and his subsequent discovery of her early singing career were the inspiration behind his 2005 album release, Thank You Shirl-ee May. Amos has released six albums of music, including his 2014 release, “The Reverend Shawn Amos Tells It,” a collection of blues originals and covers that received much acclaim from the blues & roots world, and the sophomore The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You in 2015.
Amos discovered blues through Peter Guralnick’s Feel Like Going Home trilogy. He was at NYU film school and spent his summers driving south exploring the places in Peter’s book. “I fell in love with the stories and history, then I got hooked on the music. Howlin’ Wolf was first, Willie Dixon followed, then Junior Wells, Muddy Waters. It was virtually all I played during my college career,” says Amos. “My entire DNA is wrapped up in these songs. They have given me a sense of self and a home I never had.”
More at http://www.shawnamos.com/bio.
THE REVEREND SHAWN AMOS BREAKS IT DOWN
PUT TOGETHER MUSIC
FEBRUARY 16, 2018