Five Gems available now on Volume 1
If you are not aware of The Reverend Shawn Amos, I heartily recommend you search the Bluesdoodles archive to discover his previous work…particularly his last album, Breaks It Down, which had the most audacious, clever, faithful and brilliant cover version on it…he took Bowie’s Jean Genie and made it into an even more memorable song. His history is long and distinguished…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.
The Rev has also been active on YouTube and has uploaded, I believe the term is, ninety videos of visits by his musical friends to his kitchen where he cooked for them and then they performed songs together…well worth checking these out to witness impromptu versions of dozens of great songs. Now The Rev has put out an EP of five tracks that mean something significant to him… called simply Kitchen Table Blues Vol I it also gives us the opportunity to share in his innovative way with covers. It also suggests that there is more to come, which is good news for all of us.
First off is his ‘tribute’ to the British bands of the 60s and 70s. He chose the rather melancholy Faces song, Ooh La La, in order to reveal to the unaware that many of the songs from that era are steeped in, and owe their very existence to, the blues. The banjo intro sets the brilliant tone and the backing acoustic mixes with an accordion to as the emotive vocals lead the way. I always thought the “I wish I knew what I now…” chorus was great and built into this musical arrangement it retains its anthemic feel. It does lose a bit with the, I assume, relatively poor acoustics of the kitchen, especially on the slightly echoey sound on the vocals…the rest is a genius interpretation of a true blues-rock classic. Hold on is a more modern reworking as he takes the Alabama Shakes’ song and the treatment here somehow gives it a deeper emotional feel with the sparse guitars and oh so subtle brass. It is impossible not to be captivated by the clever guitar backing and all it needed to make it truly epic was some exploration of the melody with that wonderfully toned and tuned guitar. Whip It came as a real surprise to me as I didn’t expect The Rev to address the likes of Devo, but he does and it becomes a blues romp led by the tasty harp work and dirty horns. It shouldn’t work when you think of the original “whip it, whip it real good” entrenched in the Devo format…guess what, it genuinely works and is a joy to hear. The laid back and cleverly disjointed sax and harp solos add to the overall feel. The penultimate track was originally recorded in the 60s by a ‘garage band’ called The Sonics. Here, Have Love Will Travel is slowed down dramatically from the manic original and becomes a picked riff…. the purposeful simplicity of the playing takes the song apart and reassembles it into a quality, basic blues song with The Rev on top form vocally and on the harp solo. Final song is Jesus Gonna Be Here from the pen of Tom Waits…an artist I normally avoid unless I want to feel a little gloomy! The Rev however gives this a bit of a jazzy blues workout as a double bass introduces the song with just The Rev’s vocals and light percussion to carry it beautifully until, at around the one minute twenty mark we get a subtle picked electric guitar solo that just melts into the song. The guitar stays with us from then but never intrudes or overpowers…after my initial comment on this track, I can safely say that I like Tom Waits when covered in this unpretentious and clever way.
Once again, The Reverend Shawn Amos has shown how adept he is at bringing a new life and approach to some classic songs. His, and his guests, abilities shine through as they put a different patina on each song and make them different, accessible and a delight to listen to. I now look forward to subsequent volumes and by the way Rev, if you need any suggestions for future cover versions, I’ve got a million of them…here is just one: my favourite Son House song of all would be perfect for your ‘treatment’…here’s hoping Pearline appears here soon. Useless fact…’
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …Tracklisting:
- Ooh La La
- Hold On
- Whip It
- Have Love Will Travel
- Jesus Gonna Be Here
I have tried, and failed, to identify the guests on these tracks…apologies to them but know that whoever you are, you played a blinder.