Rev Shawn Amos Breaks It Down Historically With Blues gospel, field music, and soul come together as Rev. Shawn Amos Breaks It Down. The Reverend Shawn Amos is genuinely a Reverend. It is not an affectation. He is an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church.
After many years in the music industry (as Artist & Repertoire executive at Rhino and Shout!, as well as a noted producer for Heart and Quincy Jones amongst others), he began his own solo career and has released a number of albums since 2005. This is not the first album Bluesdoodles has reviewed and enjoyed. 2015 we were listening to Loves You now back with Breaks It Down.
His latest release, The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down is, in his own words, “a collection of 21st Century Freedom Songs”. Inspired by his touring in the American South, the post-Trump election divide, and his own personal triumphs and tragedies.
Opening with Moved, we are greeted by some deft picking and a couple of harmonica notes before the Rev’s plaintive voice takes us into a soulful song, asking us “How long before we’re moved?” 2017 brings bass and drums into play as he laments on the state of the nation.
Hold Hands gives us the first guitar solo in the middle of a Stax feeling track, think along the lines of Down On The Boardwalk.
Inevitably, the biggest surprise is the cover of David Bowie’s Jean Genie…a brave man! This is an imaginative take on a classic. The first thing to notice is he has the audacity to omit the final downstroke of the distinctive riff. This makes it instantly recognizable, but different. The next change is that his voice is phased, but then no one could copy Bowie. The Hi Rhythm Section provide a big band sound on the chorus and then we get a guitar/harmonica segue.
Does it work? Easy answer; yes! Anyone who is brave enough to cover Bowie deserves credit and it is different enough to be very good in its own right.
A brief a capella reading of Uncle Tom’s Prayer is the first of what the Rev calls his ‘Freedom Suite’ and it gives a good feeling for the old work/field songs of the day. Similarly, the Bukka White cover, Does My Life Matter evokes that period. Then a funky feel rounds out the suite with Come Together. Ain’t Gonna Name Names has a fun aspect with horns providing another echo of Stax. The warmth of a Hammond welcomes us into a gospel choir rendition of Nick Lowe’s …Peace Love And Understanding. And again, it works.
The strange thing about this album is the way it gets under your skin. It has nothing, apart from the Bowie cover, to make it stand out. Yet I thoroughly enjoyed every song.
It rewards the listener that listens; it has no long instrumental sections and no guitar hero histrionics.
It is an album that celebrates and challenges the history, and the future of the Rev Shawn Amos’ heritage and the wider issues of the world today. It is an album that exudes atmosphere. It is an experience.
The Reverend Shawn Amos – Breaks It Down – Put Together
Release Date 16th February 2018
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Hold Hands
- The Jean Genie (Bowie)
- Uncle Tom’s Prayer (Reagon)
- Does My Life Matter (Bukka White)
- (We’ve Got To) Come Together
- Ain’t Gonna Name Names
- (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding (Lowe)
- Diggin’ In My Potatoes (Leadbelly) Bonus Track
Rev Shawn Amos vocals; harmonica
Chris Roberts; guitar
Larry Taylor; bass
Steve Potts; drums
Peter Adams; Hammond B3
The Hi Rhythm Section; backing band
The Masqueraders; backing vocals
Recorded at FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Ocean Studio, Burbank and the Royal Studio, Memphis.