The Cause of It All

The Reverend Shawn Amos

Put Together Music, 2021

http://www.shawnamos.com

REVIEW BY: Conrad Warre

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/26/2021

The Reverend Shawn Amos’ biography reads like a letter straight from the present day civil rights conflagration. He cites being born in the right zip code and having the company of his white and Jewish friends during youthful interactions with the law, which in any other neighborhood would have resulted in very different and harsher results. Amos comes originally from New York and worked in the William Morris Agency mailroom; upon moving to California, he worked in the A&R Department at Rhino Entertainment. Amos describes his visit to South Central in 1992 as “a visitor from a foreign land” to help clean up after the uprising. His album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Cause Of It All is a cold blast of dirty blues, played unflinchingly and with musical courage. The songs includes the classics “Spoonful,” “Hoochie Coochie Man” and  “I’m Ready “ by Willie Dixon, a couple of songs by Muddy Waters, and a song each from John Lee Hooker and Little Walter. My ears lit up when the second track kicked in: a song called “Goin’ To The Church” by Lester Butler of the infamous Red Devils, that even now not enough people know about. 

Recorded in California by James Saez in 2021 (with the last four tracks being recorded in Texas 2020 by Chris Bell) the instrumentation and selection of songs is a listener’s primer in how to play Chicago electric blues using just harmonica, electric guitar, and a single vocalist. The voice and the guitar are both distorted enough to deliver their sawtooth lines collectively without completely destroying their relative target pitches. Amos plays harmonica and sings, while Chris “Doctor” Roberts alternates between acoustic and electric guitar.

Amos typically tours with a lineup that includes the drummer Brady Blade (Dave Matthews, Indigo Girls), bassist Christopher Thomas (Norah Jones, Carly Simon, Macy Gray), and guitarist Chris Roberts as the The Reverend Amos & the Brotherhood. The Cause Of It All release eschews the soft cover of an ensemble and courageously lays bare the songs to the listener as ghostly skeletons.

Amos And The Brotherhood released their debut album Blue Sky in April of 2020 and hit the Billboard Blues Album Chart at number six. Amos’ debut novel Cookies & Milk is scheduled for release in spring 2022.

Rating: A

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