The Upshot: Roots/Americana veteran who subsequently became an ordained minister proves he can focus his energies and still produce a strong album that’s a fitting tribute to his current inspiration.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Before he became a reverend (ordained by the Universal Life Church), Shawn Amos had a couple of other lives. In the early ‘aughts, the son of cookie magnate Famous Amos released three excellent solo albums that mixed rootsy Americana with strong melodies and exceptional lyrics for a body of work ripe for rediscovery. Following that, he spent several years as an A&R executive, guiding projects for Rhino and Shout! Factory. After a stint running Quincy Jones’ Listen Up Foundation, the newly ordained Reverend Amos found a new calling: the blues.
Having freely mixed and matched American music forms on his earlier records, it’s refreshing to hear Amos stick to one genre on Loves You. Backed by a band led by producer/saxophonist/fuzak star Mindi Adair, Amos eschews frills for simple (but not simpleminded) numbers that sound timeless. Rugged electric blues tunes “Hollywood Blues,” “The Outlaw” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me (When I Get Home)” keep one foot in Chicago and the other in Texas, showcasing Amos’ easy mastery of the form. The brash boogie of, erm, “Boogie,” the slinky groove of “Put Together” and the raw R&B of “Brand New Man” add textural variety without being showy about it. A cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City” with Adair demonstrates a solid grasp on a style that sounds easier to master than it actually is. The country blues “Days of Depression” invites the Blind Boys of Alabama to add gospel harmonies, while the walking blues “Brothers Keeper” expands its message of harmony beyond person-to-person to the wide world in general.
Old school Amos fans might miss the variety of his older work – he was truly a distinctive artist in the first years of the new millennium. But Loves You proves he can focus his energies and still produce a strong album that’s a fitting tribute to his current inspiration.
DOWNLOAD: “Brothers Keeper,” “Put Together,” “You’re Gonna Miss Me (When I’m Home)”