The Rev. Shawn Amos will release his latest full-length studio recording this spring. Blue Sky is scheduled for release April 17 through Put Together. The 10-song, 32-minute recording is Amos’ first recording with his new band, The Brotherhood. The band consists of Brady Blade (Indigo Girls, Dave Matthews) on drums, Christopher Thomas (Norah Jones, Carly Simon, Macy Gray) on bass and Amos’ longtime friend and guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts. Amos said in a recent interview of the album, “Making this album has allowed me to bring both sides of myself as a writer together,” noting his blues and Americana sides as those two sides. He was right in his statement, as is evidenced throughout the course of the album. Of course the album offers more than those two elements, as the album’s finale, ‘Keep The Faith, Have Some Fun (ft. Mudbug Brass Band’ shows. This song will be addressed shortly. ‘The Pity and The Pain (ft. Kenya Hathaway)’ is one of the best of the album’s blues offerings. It comes late in the album’s run, and will be addressed a little later. The album’s opener, ‘Stranger Than Today’ is the most notable of its Americana offerings. It will be addressed later. All three songs are important in their own right to Blue Sky. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s offerings, the whole of the album proves to be among this year’s top new jazz and blues albums.
The Rev. Shawn Amos’ latest full-length studio recording Blue Sky is another strong new offering from the veteran singer-songwriter. That is thanks to the combination of the album’s musical and lyrical content. The album’s celebratory finale, ‘Keep The Faith, Have Some Fun (ft. Mudbug Brass Band).’ The song’s musical arrangement is anything but the mix of Americana and blues that Amos said he wanted to bring together on this record. That is not a bad thing, though. The song’s musical arrangement is a full-on funky Dixieland opus complete with horns and percussion that would be a perfect fit at any Mardi Gras parade. The groove created by all involved creates such an infectious groove that it becomes the perfect closer for the album and in general, one of the album’s strongest entries, if not its strongest. The call and response that is used in the song’s opening only serves to strengthen that impact even more. All things considered here, the musical portion of ‘Keep The Faith, Have Some Fun (ft. Mudbug Brass Band)’ does more than its share to make the song stand out as an example of what makes the record so enjoyable. The song’s upbeat musical content couples with its equally bright lyrical outlook to make the song that much stronger.
Amos sings in the song’s lead verse along with his band mates and fellow musicians, “Life is good/That’s what I say (Living every day)/Bring me that good life/Bring it my way (Living every day)/Life is good/That’s what I say (Living every day)/Bring me that good life/Bring it my way.” The group continues in the song’s second verse, “You’re free to have some fun/Spread a little joy, everyone/Keep the faith/Have some fun/Spread a little joy, everyone/Keep the faith/Have some fun/Spread a little joy to everyone.” The collective adds in the song’s third and final verse, “Love is good/That’s what I say (Loving every day)/Bring me that sweet love/Bring it may way/Keep the faith/Have some fun/Spread a little joy to everyone.” Simply put, this is a feel good work both musically and lyrically that will put a smile on everybody’s face with its completely celebratory nature. What’s more it is simple and accessible in its lyrical content. That, along with the infectious grooves in the musical arrangement makes the song in whole a powerful addition to Blue Sky. It is just one of the album’s most notable works. ‘The Pity and the Pain (ft. Kenya Hathaway) is another standout addition to the album.
‘The Pity and the Pain (ft. Kenya Hathaway)’ is among this album’s best blues offerings. That is due in part to its r&b-infused, keyboard driven arrangement. Amos wastes no time conjuring thoughts of Ray Charles in the song’s opening bars, with just him and a keyboard. The gritty sound in Amos’ vocals works with that piano sound to even more make the song comparable to Charles’ works. The introduction of Roberts’ subtle guitar line, Blade’s equally subtle work on the drums and Thomas’ bass line to the whole makes the arrangement in whole a musical whole that is truly memorable. When the melancholy nature of the arrangement is set alongside the song’s bittersweet lyrical content, the whole of the song adds even more to its noteworthy nature.
Amos sings in the song’s lead verse, “I’m not here to pray/But I would get down on my knees/If it makes the pain go away/I never thought I’d say/California now reminds me of my own mortality/Just didn’t think so/Didn’t care to go/All the places that I’ve been/They’re never gonna box me in/You have to carry on from here/Keep yourself clear/Of the pity and the pain/The fear your heart can take.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “In the time that I have left/The days that remain/I was 23/You and me/Were gonna take on everything/I stepped up to the bar/With my self consciousness in place/I said, ‘You sure is cute, honey’/But there ain’ nothing that’ll hold/Your smile/My dream/It broke my sleep/And I saw you as you are/We was good/We was great/ Now that’s my last apology/You have to carry on from here/Keep your sweet self clear/Of the pity and the pain/The fear your heart can take.” At first, the song comes across as someone looking back on his life, but it becomes clear in that second verse, that this is another song about a broken relationship. The thing is, this is a unique way in which such a familiar topic is taken on. To that end, Amos deserves a fair share of credit for keeping an all-too-familiar topic from becoming too trite. Add in the noted melancholy in the song’s musical arrangement, and what audiences get is a pure blues work that will appeal not only to blues fans, but to r&b fans and music lovers in general. It is just one more piece that proves why Amos and company’s first outing together is such a positive presentation. It still is not the last of the album’s most notable entries. The album’s opener, ‘Stranger Than Today’ is yet another key addition to the LP.
‘Stranger Than Today’ is the purest example of Amos’ Americana and blues sides coming together on this record. Almost instantly, Amos’ vocals, Thomas’ use of what sounds like brushes on the snare and Roberts’ performance on the steel pedal couples with the harmonica to create a work that is unique all in its own. Listeners will get thoughts of Bob Dylan as they take in that collection of elements. At the same time, the subtlety of the harmonica conjures the slightest thoughts of “Country” Joe McDonald. That unique arrangement in itself is more than enough reason for audiences to take in this work. When it couples with the song’s lyrical content, the song generates even more engagement and entertainment.
The lyrics here are slightly difficult to decipher sans lyrics sheet, but from what can be deciphered, Amos seems to make reference to “Running loose between the blue sky/Couldn’t say we tried” in the song’s lead verse, and something seeming to make mention about “Changing shoes before the warning/Shouldn’t be surprised.” Needless to say, this one is a bit of a head scratcher. Amos continues in the song’s second verse, “Mr. Mary and Walter Jacobs/Never said good-bye/Soon after the altercation/You better hear…On his horse on 54th street/Stranger than today.” The rest of the lyrics are pretty much indecipherable without lyrics to reference. Either way, from what can be understood, it goes without saying that Amos’ poetry here will certainly generate some discussion because of its ambiguous nature. It would be interesting to know what exactly Amos was saying both metaphorically and literally in this case. That aside, the very fact that it is certain to generate so much talk, this is certain to make the song that much more engaging for audiences. That engagement, coupled with the engagement and entertainment, ensured by the song’s musical content, makes the song in whole its own notable addition to this LP. When the song is considered alongside the other songs addressed here and the rest of the album’s works, the whole of the record becomes a presentation whose appeal is very wide-reaching.
The Rev. Shawn Amos and The Brotherhood’s new album Blue Sky is a positive debut for the collective. That is thanks to its musical and lyrical content in whole. The musical content clearly shows Amos’ blues and Americana sides, just as he intended to do while also showing something more. That is pointed out clearly here through just three of the album’s songs. Those songs, when considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, make the album in whole one of this year’s top new entries in the jazz and blues realm. It will be available April 17 through Put Together. More information on the album is available online along with all of Amos’ latest news and more at:
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