http://www.folkradio.co.uk 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’.
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’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.