…that was The Cause Of It All
If you haven’t come across the very talented Reverend Shawn Amos yet, he 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.
My first experience of his genius was in 2018 on his Breaks It Down release where I found a cover version 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 recognisable, but different…and brilliant. Since then I have caught up with his back catalogue as well as his releases since then…many of these are reviewed here on Bluesdoodles: just use the search for more Reverend results.
The Reverend Shawn Amos shares the blues…
His latest release is cleverly entitled The Cause Of It All and is ten ingenious reworking of songs from blues titans such as Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf…but this is The Rev and in his hands these songs are lovingly sculpted to retain their identity and yet become something new, fresh and refreshingly new.
Starting with the prolific pen of Willie Dixon, we get the immortal Spoonful; The Rev calls him “the Gershwin of blues” as, I guess, he wrote over 500 songs for so many blues artists. This version is, with just the superb guitar of the Doc and The Rev’s harp wail and great vocal interpretation that, me, it is up there with the other dozen versions I have. Cream or Moody/Marsden or Leslie West…or The Rev? The beauty of all of these is they could be listened to back to back as each brings different dimensions to a classic song…love ‘em all.
Goin’ To The Church may be a cover, but it is (relatively) unknown: written by Lester Butler, the extremely talented harp player in of The Red Devils, it appeared on their debut album, King King, in 1991 and was a sort of Cats Squirrel paced blues: in The Rev’s hands it has the bite, the emotion, the gospel preaching feel and, as usual, with the two of them it becomes the same but so different it is genius.
Next up is the first of three Muddy Waters’ songs…Still A Fool was 1951 B-side and is transformed into a distilled Waters(!); the essence is there, the guitar is superb and the whole is magnificent. Color And Kind was a Howlin’ Wolf tune that The Rev and Doc make their own whilst retaining the Wolf’s growl.
John Lee Hooker’s turn next with his 1966 song, Serves Me Right To Suffer…a little slower, a lot more portentous and exquisitely realised.
The second half of the album (side two if you will) is all acoustic and starts with Willie Dixon’s I’m Ready: this has been done by so many – Aerosmith’s version is a corker. In this version, Doc’s acoustic is light and playful as The Rev does a first-class vocal interpretation that is closest to Muddy’s version.
Now the next track also has dozens of versions out there…my favourite is the Budgie genius off their Never Turn Your Back On A Friend album. The Rev does it proud as he channels this traditional blues song via Big Joe Williams and (again) Muddy…the acoustic guitar is brilliant and I could listen to them duetting all day.
Any harp player will have been influenced by the great Little Walter and The Rev pays due respect; the acoustic is genius again and (dare I say it) is as good as the original.
Back to Muddy for the final two tracks and acoustic readings of Hoochie Coochie Man and Little Anna Mae. The former shouldn’t work as a slower acoustic version…but it does, and it does so magnificently. The latter loses the piano for just the delicious acoustic and a heartfelt vocal and, again, it works so well.
If you’re tempted to think, “not another album of cover versions”, then think again…yes it is, but the way they are treated and so lovingly and originally interpreted, it is like hearing them for the first time again…listen, learn, buy!
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – always to be relied on, The Rev has exceeded himself with this selection of great songs made anew with his knowing vocals (even the wold howls!), his undoubted harp skills and the simply stunning yet subtle guitar of Chris Roberts, this is an album of covers like no other.
Spoonful (Willie Dixon)
Goin’ To The Church (Lester Butler)
Still A Fool (Muddy Waters)
Color And Kind (Howlin’ Wolf)
Serves Me Right To Suffer (John Lee Hooker)
I’m Ready (Willie Dixon)
Baby Please Don’t Go (Traditional)
Can’t Hold Out Much Longer (Little Walter)
Hoochie Coochie Man (Muddy Waters)
Little Anna Mae (Muddy Waters)
Reverend Shawn Amos: vocals, harmonica
Chris ‘Doctor’ Roberts: guitars
(iTunes went straight to more Rev Shawn…so I just had to listen to that version of Jean Genie again…twice!)